NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted it’s still “realistic” to hold a second independence referendum next year, adding that “the work is underway”.

The First Minister was probed on the timing of indyref2 by ITV Border on Wednesday, after it emerged that she had held three high level meetings to prepare white papers ahead of a second vote.

The FM held three meetings between November 2021 and February 2022 to discuss, amongst other things, which topics to include in the document.

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Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson also attended the meetings alongside civil servants and advisers, to discuss the “approach to the development and delivery” of new independence white papers.

The FM has repeatedly said that she intends for a second independence referendum to be held in 2023, and was a manifesto commitment from the SNP during the Holyrood election last year.

However, there has also been no hard date confirmed as to when the Referendum Bill, the legislation that would allow a vote to go ahead, will be laid before Holyrood.

There could also be issues ahead if the legislation is referred to the Supreme Court, if UK law officers think it may lay outside of the parliament’s legislative competence. 

A similar issue occurred last year after the parliament voted to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law.

But the First Minister today repeated that she believes that it is still “realistic” that indyref2 will take place in 2023.

The FM was asked by ITV Border: “There’s not going to be one [independence referendum] by the end of next year is there?”

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Sturgeon responded: “Yes, that is my intention that there is and trust me I know the timescales involved here as well as anybody does.

“The work is underway, I’ll set out more about that in due course, but I was elected a year ago on a very clear proposition to offer the people of Scotland a choice in the first half of this parliament and my intention is to deliver that.”

ITV Border asked if “that’s realistic”, to which the FM said: “Yes it is.”

The National: The FM said holding indyref2 next year is still "realistic"The FM said holding indyref2 next year is still "realistic"

It comes as the Scottish Government have started to ramp up preparations for indyref2 now that all pandemic restrictions have been removed in Scotland.

The FM had previously said that recovery from the Covid-19 would take priority over a vote on independence.

But in recent months, it emerged that the government has assigned one senior civil servant and 14 other officials to work on the independence blueprint.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also repeatedly rejected the idea of allowing a second independence vote to go ahead, along with the possibility of granting a Section 30 order.

And, we previously told how House of Commons researchers have concluded that the row over a second independence referendum could end up in court – as it’s not clear whether or not MPs can block a second vote