SCOTLAND will vote in an independence referendum on October 19, 2023, the First Minister has announced as she unveiled preparations for a legal battle with Westminster over indyref2.

In a major update on Scotland’s route to indyref 2, Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs on Tuesday that the Scottish Government will ask the same question as in 2014 and that the referendum will be “consultative”.

Speaking in Holyrood, Sturgeon announced the Scottish Government had published a referendum bill today.

The Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain has referred the bill to the Supreme Court, Sturgeon added, gearing up the Scottish Government for a legal challenge to Westminster.

The First Minister said that if the bill was rejected at that level, it would prove the Union between England and Scotland was not a “voluntary partnership”.

The devolution, first independence and Brexit referendums were all “consultative” referendums, said the First Minister, saying this would mean in the event of a Yes vote, legislation would need to be passed by both Westminster and Holyrood to complete the separation of Scotland and the UK.

Sturgeon said she would write to the Prime Minister to outline the content of her major update to Parliament and said she was still open to negotiating a Section 30 order.

The question of competence should now be discussed in court, rather than in Parliament, she added.

She said: “The lawfulness must be established as a matter of fact not just of opinion.”

Should the Supreme Court reject the bill and the Prime Minister again block a Section 30 order, Sturgeon pledged to fight the next general election on the single issue of independence, saying this would make the vote “a de facto referendum”.

The Supreme Court confirmed on Tuesday evening it had received the Lord Advocate’s reference and that the case did not need to be “granted permission to proceed”.

It is not known when the case will be heard, the Court added because this will be decided by its president Lord Reed of Allermuir.

The Scottish Government expects the case to be settled later in the year.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross vowed his party would not take part in indyref2 and accused the SNP of prioritising independence above any other issue.

But Sturgeon hit back, saying that if the matter was settled in the courts it would make the Conservatives’ opposition “even sillier”, pointing out the question of the Scottish Parliament’s competence was now in the hands of Supreme Court law officers.

Donald Cameron, the Scottish Conservatives’ constitutional spokesman called on the Lord Advocate to appear in Holyrood to take questions from MSPs.

Sturgeon responded that she would not require this of the top law officer but gave an indication the idea was possible.

Speaking before her statement, the First Minister said independence was a chance for Scotland to “chart our own course”.

She contrasted that with the current situation in the UK currently where “tens of thousands of children can be pushed into poverty with the merest stroke of the Chancellor’s pen”.

The First Minister added: “My determination is to secure a process that allows the people of Scotland, whether yes, no or yet to be decided, to express their views in a legal, constitutional referendum so the majority view can be established fairly and democratically.”

Welcoming the announcement, the Greens co-leader Lorna Slater said the “democratic will” of the Scottish people “must be fulfilled”.

She added: “I am confident that when given the choice the people will choose to take our future in our own hands by becoming an independent European country.”