Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May in stand-off over Scottish referendum date

Fiona Simpson
Leaders clash: Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May have clashed over the date of the Scottish referdendum: Russell Cheyne/PA

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted her preferred timetable for a second Scottish independence referendum is necessary to allow voters to make an "informed choice" between Brexit and leaving the UK.

The First Minister is in a stand-off on the issue with Prime Minister Theresa May, who has made clear she believes "now is not the time" for a fresh ballot to be held.

The SNP leader wants there to be another vote on leaving the UK between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, when the terms of the UK's Brexit deal are clear.

While the First Minister has not yet set out how she intends to take the matter forward, as Scotland's devolution settlement reserves powers over the constitution to Westminster, she told an audience in Glasgow that people need to be able to "come to a considered judgment" on the issue.

She contrasted the 2014 independence referendum campaign with last year's vote for the UK to leave the European Union - a position not supported in Scotland where 62 per cent of voters opted to remain part of the bloc.

But in that ballot she said "people were asked to vote for a change, without ever really being told what that change involved".

Ms Sturgeon said: "I don't pretend for one moment that the 2014 referendum was perfect. But I do think it was a far better process for debate and decision than the 2016 vote on the EU.

"And so we want to ensure that the next referendum on independence again gives people the information they need to come to an informed and considered judgment.

"That is why nobody wants the referendum to take place immediately. Instead, I believe it should happen once the details of the final Brexit agreement with the EU are known. Based on what the Prime Minister says currently that is likely to be in late 2018 or early 2019."

The First Minister, who was addressing the Political Studies Association annual conference, recalled EU membership had been a "significant issue" in the 2014 independence referendum.

She said: "Scotland, despite the arguments that were made in 2014 and how we voted in 2016, faces being forced to leave the EU against our will.

"In my view, that is democratically unacceptable. That is why the Scottish Parliament, two weeks ago, agreed that discussions should begin with the UK Government for a referendum on independence, once the final terms of Brexit deal are known."