Sturgeon to make ‘detailed and substantive’ independence speech

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will make a statement to the Scottish Parliament about plans for Independence (Andrew Cowan/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon will make a “detailed and substantive” speech on Wednesday about plans for Scottish independence, her spokesman has confirmed.

The First Minister is due to make a 30-minute statement in the Scottish Parliament.

She will set out her “thoughts on independence and how that relates to where the country currently finds itself”.

Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman said: “The First Minister will give a detailed and substantive statement setting out the path forward for Scotland amid the ongoing Brexit confusion at Westminster.

“The First Minister will take time to set out her thoughts on that front and in doing so she will seek to strike an inclusive tone.”

The Scottish Parliament Bureau, which determines day-to-day business at Holyrood, confirmed it has approved Ms Sturgeon’s request to address MSPs on Wednesday afternoon, followed by an hour of questions.

Tories criticised the change to Holyrood’s scheduled business to include a statement from the First Minister.

Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said: “Nicola Sturgeon wants to give a statement, not about schools, the economy or hospitals but about a second independence referendum. She is making her priorities absolutely clear.

“So let me be equally clear –  we want to move on from the SNP’s constitutional grandstanding and get back to the things that matter to the people of Scotland.”

With the statement coming just days before the SNP’s party conference in Edinburgh, the spokesman said Ms Sturgeon had opted to make the statement “at the first available opportunity” since the EU granted a six-month extension to the Article 50 process.

After a cabinet briefing on Tuesday morning, ministers were said to be “happy” with details of Ms Sturgeon’s plans to address Parliament, with her spokesman adding: “There was positive feedback from Cabinet colleagues.”

Ms Sturgeon is not thought to have notified Theresa May or Downing Street of her planned statement.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s response would be to calls for a Section 30 order to pave the way for a second independence referendum, her official spokesman said: “You know the Prime Minister’s position on that and it has not changed.

“First and foremost, let’s wait and see what the First Minister says.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “Nicola Sturgeon should use this opportunity to drop her reckless threat of a divisive and unwanted second independence referendum.

“We know the SNP only cares about creating more division, but the majority of people in Scotland want the government to get back to the day job and fix the crises in our schools and hospitals.

“It’s time for the First Minister to end the damaging uncertainty and work to bring the country together.”

Latest polling from December, published on the impartial What Scotland Thinks website, suggests another referendum would be 51% to 45% in favour of no to independence.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Nicola Sturgeon can produce no evidence that the people of Scotland want another independence referendum.

“This debate is a distraction from the real and serious problems Scotland faces – a low pay economy, exhausted public services and one in four children living in poverty.

“The mess of Brexit throws into sharp relief the challenges of leaving a political and economic union.

“The answer to challenges of the UK leaving the EU is not and never will be Scotland leaving the UK.

“Leaving the UK would lead to unprecedented austerity for Scotland’s public services.

“Each currency option the First Minister has tried simply makes that worse.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie said: “The First Minister should take the opportunity to tell Parliament that she is ruling out another independence referendum.

“She must tell Parliament that she has learnt the lesson of Brexit, that breaking up long-term economic partnerships is damaging and divisive, and that she does not want to inflict that on Scotland with independence.

“People are exhausted by the division and economic damage that Brexit has thrust upon us.

“Breaking up the 40-year union we have with the EU has been excruciating.

“Breaking up a 300-year-old union with the rest of the UK would be much, much worse.”