Sturgeon ‘needs more clarity’ before sharing second referendum thoughts

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Nicola Sturgeon has said she may have to wait until November or even December to give an update on her plans for a second Scottish independence referendum.

The Scottish First Minister said the lack of detail surrounding the UK’s departure from the European Union meant she was unable to make a judgment on whether to call for another independence vote.

She insisted this was the case despite fears that Britain could be heading for a “genuinely disastrous Brexit outcome” – and even warned that Theresa May’s almost “dysfunctional” government could lead to a snap general election.

The SNP leader said: “It may be this government is not far away from being unable to govern, I say that in seriousness.”

She noted the “circus that is unfolding” at the Tory party conference in Brimingham, where there has been speculation that the Prime Minister could face a leadership challenge.

Conservative Party annual conference 2018
Nicola Sturgeon described the Conservative conference as a ‘circus’ (Victoria Jones/PA)

“I certainly don’t think we should rule out the fact that there might be a general election.”

However she was clear that more detail is still needed on the UK’s future relationship with the EU before she can decide on whether to press for another vote on Scottish independence.

Ms Sturgeon had previously indicated her willingness to fight a second referendum following the Brexit result in 2016, when Scotland voted to remain part of the EU but the UK as a whole opted to leave.

However she pulled back from that position after the SNP lost a number of Westminster seats in the 2017 general election – at the time pledging to set out her thinking on the issue in October.

Speaking at the 50th anniversary of the Europa Institute at Edinburgh University, the First Minister said that while Scotland “must retain the option to choose a different course as an independent member of the EU”, she said that would be “when there is greater clarity about the terms of Brexit than exists today”.

She said the “decisive moments” of the negotiations were now approaching, adding that the Scottish Government would publish a further document ahead of the key EU Council meeting in October “setting out the case for compromise and common sense”.

Ms Sturgeon stressed her administration would continue to make the case for the UK to remain in both the single market and the customs union – even though this has been repeatedly ruled out by Westminster.

The First Minister was asked directly by a member of the audience if she would call for a second independence vote if the UK “crashes out with no deal”.

But she responded that she would set out her thinking when there is sufficient information on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

The First Minister said that she would “wait until we are at this phase of the negotiations before effectively sharing my view on what I think where we are at that stage means for Scotland and the question of an independence referendum”.

She continued: “The end of this period of negotiation, I previously thought that would be October. It is now looking like that is more likely to be November, perhaps with a vote in the House of Commons in December.

“So I will take a judgment depending on where we get to, set out some views on where I think we’re heading if we don’t change course, and have more to say on that that point.”

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