Plans for independence vote for Scotland to be published in draft bill

The Scottish government is to set out its plans for a second independence referendum in a draft bill at Holyrood.

Ministers have accepted that there is “clearly” not time to hold a fresh vote before the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2021.

However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a draft bill would be published setting out the timescale and potential question for a new referendum.

The SNP will then “make the case” for this plan in the election campaign.

Opposition parties hit out at the move, with Scottish Conservatives accusing Ms. Sturgeon of putting independence “front and center” while delaying commitments to free childcare.

The Scottish government had previously hoped to hold an independence referendum during the current term of parliament.

However, ministers wanted to secure an agreement with the UK government to make sure any vote would be legally watertight, something Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly stated his opposition to.

The Scottish government paused work” on preparations for a ballot as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, and now says there is “clearly” no time to “organize and hold an independence referendum that is beyond legal challenge” before the election in May.

Ms Sturgeon said she would instead publish draft legislation setting out the question to be asked – subject to testing by the Electoral Commission, something Scottish ministers had previously opposed – and the timescale for a vote.

She said that based on this, “at next year’s election we will make the case for Scotland to become an independent country”.

Her program for government paper said that “if there is majority support for the bill in the Scottish Parliament in the next term, there could then be no moral or democratic justification whatsoever for any UK government to ignore the rights of the people of Scotland to choose our future”.

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