Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of recklessness after she said a second independence referendum should be held in “the earlier part of the next parliament” despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Speaking ahead of the SNP conference, which begins tomorrow, the First Minister said that while her full focus remains on dealing with Covid-19, there are a “variety of reasons” for a referendum in the near future. She refused to rule out a referendum taking place next year, despite UK Government ministers repeatedly saying they would refuse to allow a repeat of the 2014 vote, hailed at the time by the SNP as a “once in a generation” event, to take place. Ms Sturgeon said: “As we come out of the pandemic, and this will be true for all countries, but there are particular aspects of this in Scotland’s case, there are questions all of us have to ask,” she said. “What kind of countries, societies do we want to be as we emerge from the pandemic?” Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, has claimed a referendum will take place next year. Asked whether she endorsed that timetable, Ms Sturgeon said she had not ruled it in or out. However, even if the UK Government did agree to another referendum, it would be highly unlikely that a vote could take place next year.