IndyRef2 will be held in Scotland in October 2023, says SNP minister

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SNP minister Angus Robertson said a vote would be held next year  (PA)
SNP minister Angus Robertson said a vote would be held next year (PA)

The Scottish government plans to hold a second independence referendum in October next year, an SNP minister has said.

Angus Robertson, the party’s constitution secretary, said MSPs would be given a “route map” to a vote in the coming weeks.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday launched a fresh campaign to make the case for breaking from the Union, saying there was an indisputable mandate” for the ballot.

She has previously made clear that the SNP would prefer a referendum to be held before the end of next year.

But Mr Robertson went further, telling the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland that they would aim to hold it in October 2023.

He said he was “fully content with the prospectus beginning to be rolled out” as well as the “announcements that will follow on the route map”.

Downing Street has denied that it will allow a second vote to be held, insisting that the Scottish public is more focused on the cost-of-living crisis and the war in Ukraine.

Last year, the SNP claimed that they could pass legislation in Holyrood over holding a vote without the consent of the UK government.

However, the decision would likely prompt a constitutional battle between Westminster and Holyrood, with the Supreme Court likely to rule on whether a vote could be held.

In order to grant a second referendum, UK ministers would have to grant a Section 30 order. This would allow a legally binding referendum to be held, as happened in 2014.

But the SNP promised in its 2021 manifesto to secure a second referendum after the Covid pandemic.

Mr Robertson accused the Government of “democracy denial”, saying he could see no justification for ministers not granting Scotland a Section 30 order.

“I’m not going to get into speculation of what happens a number of steps down the road, we still have the opportunity to secure a section 30 order,” he said.

“Scottish politics has a long history of UK governments going ‘no, no, no, yes’. That is what happened in the run-up to the referendum in 2014 and I still think we should work on the basis of the gold standard of democracy.”

Campbell Gunn, a former adviser to Ms Sturgeon, said the “timescale is very difficult” for the SNP.

Mr Gunn, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, said: "We’re now 15, 16 months from when the referendum is likely to be held, we don’t have a section 30 order, it will probably end up in the courts.

"I just don’t see the timescale working for the SNP."

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP accused the SNP of "ramping up their push for another divisive referendum".

Mr Hoy said: "This reckless push for another referendum will damage Scotland when all the focus should be on Covid recovery and the global cost-of-living crisis.”

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