Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon promises 'significant update' to Parliament 'very soon' over legal referendum push as scene setter report published

Nicola Sturgeon declared she would give a “significant” update to the Scottish Parliament “very soon” on how a legal referendum for Scottish independence could be held as she stressed her Government would press ahead without a section 30 order if required.

Speaking as the Government published a new ‘scene setter’ document entitled ‘Independence in the Modern World. Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland?’, Ms Sturgeon said any referendum must be “lawful”.

She said she had spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the hours before the document launch, and made it clear to the Conservative leader she was ready to discuss “terms of such an order” at any time.

The First Minister stressed she could not yet discuss legal advice around how to achieve a legal referendum because did not not wish to break the ministerial code.

Scottish Government minister and Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie (left) and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking at a press conference in Bute House in Edinburgh at the launch of new paper on Scottish independence. Picture: Russell Cheyne/PA Wire

And she avoided discussing the potential for a ‘hard border’ between Scotland and England under independence when pressed on the issue, admitting only there would be customs requirements to overcome.

"We must forge a way forward, if necessary without a section 30 order,” she said.

"For the reasons that I’ve set out already, however, we must do so in a lawful manner.

"We know that in these circumstances the competence of the Scottish Government to legislate is contested and that therefore is the situation we must navigate to give people the choice of independence. Now that work is well underway and while I do not intend to go further into the detail today, I can say that I do plan to give a significant update to Parliament very soon indeed.”

Nicola Sturgeon is speaking on independence. Picture: PA

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When asked whether the “significant” update would be issued before recess, Ms Sturgeon hinted that it would be, saying September – when Scottish Parliament is due to resume – would not be classed as “very soon”.

This paper sets out an analysis of the UK’s performance across a range of economic and social indicators relative to that of ten European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Conclusions made in the report state: “An independent Scotland could not be transformed to match the success of the comparator countries overnight. The comparator country models discussed here – especially the Nordics – have benefited from virtuous cycles created through persistently high investment in their people over time.

"But the examples in this paper illustrate the range of choices that would be available to an independent Scotland able to pursue different policies from those adopted by Westminster over many years.”

The paper adds: “Independence by itself will not guarantee improved performance – that will be determined by the quality of decision-making.”

Ms Sturgeon claimed problems such as the cost-of-living crisis and Brexit, in particular, had been made worse by Scotland not being independent.

She continued: “In their day-to-day lives, people across Scotland are suffering the impacts of the soaring cost of living, low growth and increasing inequality, constrained public finances and the many implications of a Brexit we did not vote for.

“These problems have all been made worse or, most obviously in the case of Brexit, directly caused by the fact we are not independent.

“So at this critical juncture we face a fundamental question. Do we stay tied to a UK economic model that consigns us to relatively poor economic and social outcomes which are likely to get worse, not better, outside the EU?

“Or do we lift our eyes, with hope and optimism, and take inspiration from comparable countries across Europe?”

Ms Sturgeon said building the case around independence required "substance”, which she said the paper published on Tuesday and future documents would address.

The First Minister insisted there was an “indisputable mandate” for a second independence referendum.

A foreword written in the document by Ms Sturgeon claims: “It seems clear from the evidence in this paper that the status quo is not allowing Scotland to fulfil our potential, and that the UK economic model, and Westminster decision-making, are holding us back.

“It follows that if the status quo is not working, we should ask how best to fix it.”

Downing Street again rejected the case for an independence referendum.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The UK Government’s position is that now is not the time to be talking about another referendum.

“We are confident that the people of Scotland want and expect their governments to be working together to focus on issues like the global cost-of-living challenges, like war in Europe and the issues that matter to their families and their communities.”