THE Scottish Government intends to hold a second independence referendum in October 2023, Angus Robertson has said.

The Constitution Secretary made the seemingly off-the-cuff announcement during a BBC Scotland interview the morning after Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the first in a series of new papers setting out the case for independence.

“The First Minister made clear yesterday that she intends to make an announcement to the Scottish Parliament in the forthcoming weeks about the route-map towards the referendum, which we intend to hold next October,” Robertson told Good Morning Scotland (GMS) on Wednesday. 

Asked about the possible route to indyref2 if Holyrood is denied a Section 30 order – which would hand it the powers to hold a second vote – Robertson remained tight-lipped. 

“I see no reason for the UK Government to deny a Section 30 Order," he said. “I think most of your listeners will be aware that this is the procedure that was agreed in the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum, the gold standard of holding a recognised, agreed constitutional referendum."

The SNP minister added: "I’m not going to get into speculation of what happens a number of steps down the road, we still have the opportunity to secure a section 30 order.

“Scottish politics has a long history of UK governments going ‘no, no, no, yes’. That is what happened in the run-up to the referendum in 2014 and I still think we should work on the basis of the gold standard of democracy.”

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He also denied suggestions the Scottish Government’s timetable for a second referendum was unrealistic. Robertson stated: “I am fully content with the prospectus beginning to be rolled out, with the announcements that will follow on the route map, about how that is going to be achieved, that we have a perfectly adequate window of opportunity both for legislation to be passed, for the opportunity for the people to scrutinise the prospectus the Scottish Government will publish and also hold opponents to account.”

It comes after a UK Government minister claimed the vote could not be held until 2039.

Commons Leader Mark Spencer told MPs a gap of nearer 25 years is required before the matter should be considered again following the first vote in 2014.

But Robertson baulked at that suggestion when asked about the remarks on GMS.

“I'm breathing in and I'm sighing,” the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary replied.

“To actually reflect on what that means is somebody not elected in Scotland, representing a government that has not been returned in Scotland since 1955, telling the people of Scotland what they can and can't do.

“We're in the territory of democracy denial when I hear things like that.”

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Robertson went on to make “a not dissimilar observation” about Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy, who had appeared on the show earlier in the morning.

The MSP insisted the Scottish Government does not have a mandate for a second referendum because the SNP did not win an outright majority, despite voters electing a majority of pro-independence MSPs overall.

“We had an independence referendum in 2014. That referendum was clear. And the SNP said that that referendum would be fought on the basis that it was once in a generation.”

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Roberston dismissed those claims, pointing to a renewed mandate as a result of the 2021 Holyrood election. The Constitution Secretary said of Hoy: “[He is] somebody that when he ran in last year's election was defeated and came in third in East Lothian, on BBC Radio Scotland lecturing the electorate about what they did or didn't agree to in an election.”

Hoy, having been unsuccessful in the constituency ballot, was elected to Parliament on the regional list vote in South Scotland.

The Scottish Tory MSP later accused the Scottish Government of a “shameful dereliction of duty” by planning for a second referendum.

In a statement in response to Roberson's announcement, Hoy said: “Nicola Sturgeon has come close to endorsing a plan to push ahead with an illegal vote and Angus Robertson doubled down on that today.

“This reckless push for another referendum will damage Scotland when all the focus should be on Covid recovery and the global cost-of-living crisis.”

Sarah Boyack, Labour’s constitution spokeswoman at Holyrood, claimed talk of a referendum next October was “nothing more than pie in the sky posturing from Angus Robertson”.

Boyack said: “Thousands of Scots are facing the choice between heating and eating, and the best that this SNP government can do is pluck dates out of a hat for another divisive referendum.”

A former adviser to both Alex Salmond and Sturgeon cast doubt on whether the referendum could be delivered by October next year.

Campbell Gunn, who was a special adviser to Salmond and then Sturgeon, said that the “timescale is very difficult”.

He told GMS: “We’re now 15, 16 months from when the referendum is likely to be held, we don’t have a section 30 order, it will probably end up in the courts. I just don’t see the timescale working for the SNP.”

Roberston would not be drawn on the Scottish Government’s specific plans if Downing Street refuses again to grant a Section 30 order for a second referendum.

SNP MP Stewart Hosie said on Tuesday night that Holyrood ministers "have in their minds" a route to a legal referendum if Boris Johnson continues to say no.

He said he felt "confident" the Scottish Government has a plan B and insisted there is a "different route" if the Prime Minister decides "not to be a democrat".

The First Minister, along with Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie, fired the starting gun on the indyref2 campaign on Tuesday morning as they launched a series of new documents which make the case for an independent Scotland.

Sturgeon insisted a referendum will be held with or without a Section 30 order, while Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross vowed to boycott any “wildcat” ballot.