NICOLA Sturgeon will set out her "next steps" on a second independence referendum next week, it has been confirmed.

The First Minister will give MSPs her response to Boris Johnson's refusal to grant Holyrood the power to hold a new vote.

The parliamentary statement is expected just hours before Scotland is taken out of the EU on January 31 despite voting 62-38 to Remain. 

Ms Sturgeon has said she wants Indyref2 in the second half of this year, and hinted she has a plan to overcome the UK Government's resistance.

However there is scepticism that she can deliver a vote without UK Government consent, and stirrings of frustration in the Yes movement.

After the SNP gained seats in the general election, Ms Sturgeon wrote to the PM asking for either a short-term or permanent transfer of referendum powers to Holyrood.

The first would have been achieved by a so-called Section 30 order, while the latter would have required amending the 1998 Scotland Act which is the basis of devolution.

However the Prime Minister last week refused to grant Holyrood the power to hold any referendums.

He said the SNP promise of a once-in-a-generation vote in 2014 should be respected, and a new referendum would lead to political "stagnation" in Scotland.

Although SNP Brexit Secretary Michael Russell has suggested a legal challenge against the UK's refusal may be possible, legal experts last week warned this would be highly unlikely to succeed.

SNP MP Kenny MacAskill has said the chance of Indyref2 this year is "likely nil", while former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson last week admitted it would not happen, and the Yes movement should now focus on returning a pro-independence majority at the Holyrood election in 2021.

SNP MSP Alex Neil has called for a “consultative referendum” on independence, but this could be undermined by a Unionist boycott.

It would also require the UK Government to acknowledge its outcome, something Mr Johnson appears unlikely to do.

The timing of the update was confirmed by Ms Sturgeon's official spokesman after the Scottish cabinet met this morning.

He said it remained the Scottish Government's aspiration to have Indyref2 in 2020, as that was what people voted for in the general election.

He said: “Next steps will be outlined next week. FM will seek to update before the end of the month, as she indicated.”

Asked if the Scottish Government acknowledged that Indyref2 would not happen in 2020, he said: “No, we’re committed to what was put forward in our manifesto at the election a matter of weeks ago.

"That’s what people have voted for, that’s what people have endorsed.

“It’s incumbent on us to try to deliver what people have voted for.”

The SNP’s general election manifesto said: “It must be for the Scottish Parliament, not Westminster to decide when an independence referendum should be held - and the SNP intends that it will be in 2020.” 

Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said: "The only next step Nicola Sturgeon should be contemplating is taking a divisive referendum re-run off the table altogether.

“The UK Government has provided welcome clarity on this – there will be no legal and binding independence vote in 2020, or the foreseeable future.

“The SNP should accept this and start concentrating on improving the lives and prospects of Scotland’s residents – something it hasn’t prioritised in a decade.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Yet again the Scottish Parliament is being used to showcase Nicola Sturgeon’s separatist agenda when it should be discussing how to tackle crises in education and mental health.

“If Nicola Sturgeon wants to her use time stoking up her own activist base, she should go and join a march and leave governing to someone else.

“From the economy to social care, Scotland faces serious challenges ahead. Scottish Liberal Democrats are clear that none of these will be solved by wasting more time on another independence referendum.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s next steps should be to abandon a divisive second independence referendum that the people of Scotland don’t want.

"The First Minister should remember she represents everyone in Scotland, and her job is to tell Parliament how she will end years of neglect of vital public services like schools and hospitals.

"This Government is simply obsessed with dividing communities. Scotland deserves better."