THE case for independence has never been greater, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared as the SNP began its annual conference in Glasgow.
But she said setting a date now for a second referendum would be “premature”.
In a TV interview, Ms Sturgeon was dismissive of the claim made by Theresa May that the Conservatives had saved the union.
“I think it’s called clutching at straws,” she said.
And she went on: “When I watch the chaos that is now engulfing the UK, when we look forward and see the implications of Brexit – that slow motion car crash that is developing right now – then actually the case for Scotland being in control of our destiny, having control over the decisions that shape our lives, has arguably never been greater and that’s a case I will continue to make.”
Ms Sturgeon said in March she wanted to hold a second referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. But after the general election in June, when the SNP lost 21 of its MPs, she acknowledged she would have to “reset” the referendum strategy. Yesterday she said: “There is a sense that because of the uncertainty of Brexit, because things feel to be up in the air right now, it is premature to effectively set a date right now, we need to let the dust settle.”
She spoke as a weekend poll showed the SNP still comfortably ahead of Labour and the Tories, but with projections suggesting its number of MSPs would be reduced from 63 to 57, while the Greens also lost two seats, removing the current pro-independence majority in the parliament.
Ms Sturgeon also announced the Scottish Government will pay any fee which EU citizens working in the public sector may have to pay for so-called “settled status”.
Prime Minister Theresa May has offered such status to EU migrants who have lived in the UK for five years.
Ms Sturgeon said: “It appears the UK government is going to make EU citizens apply for what they’re calling settled status and possibly charge a fee for that. They haven’t said what that fee would be, but if it’s the same as it is for residents, it will be around £65.
“We will pay that for workers in the public sector. Why? Because it helps individuals, it helps us keep vital workers in the NHS and public services and it sends a message to EU nationals that we want them to stay here because we welcome them.”
Opening the conference, Deputy First Minister John Swinney claimed the SNP was “a beacon of progressive, effective government” amid the “chaos” seen in both Labour and the Tories.
And he announced £20,000 a year bursaries for people in business and industry willing to switch careers and train to become teachers of science, technology, engineering and maths.