NICOLA Sturgeon has dismissed claims by UK Government figures that they will refuse any request for powers to be transferred to Holyrood to allow a second independence referendum in the next two years.

The First Minister hit out after Conservative ministers said they would reject any demand for a Section 30 order giving the legal authority to the Scottish Parliament for a new vote.

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She told the BBC yesterday the UK Government is “clinging to power” with “zero authority or credibility”, adding: “I’m not going to spend too much time bothering about the diktats of a government that I expect will be out of office before too long”.

Earlier deputy first minister John Swinney said Prime Minister Theresa May’s refusal to grant Holyrood the legislative power should not be seen as “the last word on the subject”.

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He said her government did not look “particularly stable” and believed the position to refuse a request for the order could change.

He said the First Minister’s announcement on Wednesday of plans to hold a referendum before May 2021 if the UK leaves the EU was the Scottish Government facing up to the question of what to do about the damage Brexit poses to Scotland.

Speaking at the Scottish Council of Development and Industry (SCDI) annual forum in Edinburgh yesterday, he said: “We face an inescapable set of circumstances. However much we want to wish away the whole Brexit trauma it is with us and it has implications for us.

“There are a number of critical issues that will affect our economic performance that, if handled in the fashion that we fear they will be handled, will be very economically damaging to the country. The question that we then face is do we do anything about that or do we just accept that? And what the First Minister was doing yesterday was essentially encouraging people to think about, well do we do something about it or do we not?”

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On the UK Government’s refusal to grant a Section 30 order, he said: “I don’t currently think the UK Government looks particularly stable, if I may put it as delicately as that.

“I think there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge about these questions, we’ve a lot of discussions to undertake with the UK Government and others on these questions but I don’t think that should be viewed as the last word on the subject.”

Swinney was speaking after May’s de-facto deputy rejected any suggestion the UK Government could grant the Section 30 order.

Speaking in Glasgow David Lidington (pictured below) said the Scottish Government should be focusing on using the powers it has.

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“We don’t see any evidence that there’s a demand from the people of Scotland for changing the decision they took in 2014,” the Cabinet Office minister said.

“That referendum was something that the First Minister and her colleagues said at the time would settle matters for a generation.”

He added: “We don’t see that the Section 30 order is called for. I don’t see that that’s going to help put right problems with Scottish schools, Scottish hospitals. I think that’s not a priority.”

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said by pushing ahead with plans for another referendum the First Minister was trying to keep the country’s options open in the face of a UK Government that does “not give a damn for the people of Scotland”.

Referring to the SNP’s election manifesto in 2016, he said the FM was “fulfilling the mandate that if Scotland was taken out of the EU against Scotland’s will that we would have a right to have a referendum”.

“Scotland has to have its options open, we have to have the right to choose our future rather than leave it in the hands of Westminster, who have shown they do not give a damn for the people of Scotland.” he said. “We’re putting in the foundations to enable referenda to happen and in terms of independence ensure that we have that choice in this term of the Scottish Parliament, fulfilling a mandate that ultimately the SNP has won elections on.”