Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out holding a referendum on Scottish independence this year despite growing tensions with the UK government over its Brexit strategy.
Ms Sturgeon warned at the weekend she is “not bluffing” about another referendum but said it will not be this year.
“There is not going to be an independence referendum in 2017, I don’t think there is anybody who thinks that is the case,” she said.
“But another independence referendum has to be on the table to make sure that Scotland doesn’t end up in the position of being driven off a hard Brexit cliff edge by a UK government that said in 2014 that voting no was the only way to stay in the EU and now wants to steamroller Scotland’s voice and opinion. I will not let than happen.”
The First Minister indicated last week that a referendum could be shelved if a “soft Brexit “ approach was adopted to the UK’s departure from the EU next year. This would mean remaining in the EU single market which Ms Sturgeon sees as essential to Scotland’s future economic growth, with research warning that 80,00 jobs could be at risk and billions lost from the economy north of the Border.
The Scottish Government has already drafted legislation for a second independence vote, which it says will be used if it concludes independence is the only way to protect Scotland’s place in Europe.
The government has also published a paper on options aimed at keeping Scotland in the European single market.
Ms Sturgeon has urged the UK government to opt for a so-called soft Brexit and stay in the single market. Failing that, she wants a special arrangement to allow Scotland to stay in the single market if the rest of the UK leaves.