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06 February 2020 19:07

Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to hold a second Scottish independence referendum by May 2021.

Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon outlines plan for second referendum in next two years

Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence by 2021 if the country is taken out of the EU. She told MSPs: "A choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation should be offered in the lifetime of this parliament. Ms Sturgeon said she hoped legislation for a referendum will be in place by the end of this year, which would allow a vote to be held once a Section 30 order is granted by the UK government. Nicola Sturgeon knows that the Westminster government will almost certainly refuse to allow another referendum within the next two years - so she needs to find a way to keep the constitutional argument alive while there is little prospect of an imminent vote. The SNP know that by proposing another referendum they will be accused by those who do not support independence of introducing a divisive political issue at the worst possible time.

So the first minister is challenging other parties who do not support Scottish independence to come forward with their own ideas for constitutional change, promising that the SNP will engage fully and in good faith. The first minister also announced plans to establish a Citizens Assembly to consider Scotland's future, which she said had been done in Ireland to "help find consensus on issues where people have sharply divided opinions". Ms Sturgeon initially called for a second referendum after the Brexit vote in 2016, but put her plans on hold after the SNP lost 21 seats in the general election the following year. A Number 10 spokesman said on Tuesday that Theresa May's stance on the issue of a second independence referendum "has not changed" - with the prime minister having previously made clear her opposition. Speaking after Ms Sturgeon's statement, Scottish Secretary David Mundell said people in Scotland had "voted decisively in 2014 to remain part of the UK, on a promise that the referendum would settle the issue for a generation".

He said: "Her statement today is not about Brexit, this is about Nicola Sturgeon trying to pacify her party members and back benchers ahead of the SNP's conference". Nicola Sturgeon is to introduce new legislation to stage a second Scottish independence referendum, claiming that one must be held by May 2021. In a long-awaited statement to the Scottish parliament on her plans, Sturgeon said the proposed legislation would set out how a new referendum would be held if Holyrood was granted the powers to stage one. Sturgeon appeared to acknowledge there was not yet a majority in favour of leaving the UK and said she wanted to build consensus with opposition parties on Scotland's constitutional and political future, in contrast to May's insularity and intransigence on Brexit. At the same time, the Scottish government would set up a so-called citizens' assembly, drawing people from across the country and the political spectrum, chaired by an independent figure, to start a debate on its constitutional future.

"Astonishingly, the way Nicola Sturgeon thinks we can come together is for Scotland to be plunged into another divisive referendum within the next 18 months," he said. Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to hold a second Scottish independence referendum by May 2021. Ms Sturgeon told them that the case for independence was now "stronger than ever" and that Brexit had "exposed the deep democratic deficit" in how Scotland is governed. In a half-hour address to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: "A choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation should be offered in the lifetime of this parliament. He added: "Instead of respecting that result, Nicola Sturgeon continues to press for divisive constitutional change when it is clear that most people in Scotland do not want another independence referendum.

"Nicola Sturgeon needs to listen to the views of the Scottish people and concentrate on improving Scotland's economy and schools, not continually trying to orchestrate upheaval and division." Image: Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said independence would lead to austerity in Scotland "Astonishingly, the way Nicola Sturgeon thinks we can come together is for Scotland to be plunged into another divisive referendum within the next 18 months," he said. Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said Ms Sturgeon was "using her office as first minister to put the interests of the SNP before the interests of our country". Nicola Sturgeon has outlined plans for a fresh referendum on Scottish independence within the next two years. The Scottish first minister claimed independence was Scotland's "route to avoiding the worst of the damage Brexit will do" and said another vote should be held "in the lifetime" of the current Scottish parliament, which is due to end in 2021. Outlining her plan in a speech to the Scottish parliament, Ms Sturgeon said: "My party was elected with a mandate to offer that choice within this parliamentary term should Scotland be taken out of the EU against our will.

"That is why I consider that a choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation should be offered in the lifetime of this parliament. Ms Sturgeon said the UK's decision to leave the EU had changed the circumstances since the last Scottish independence referendum.