NICOLA Sturgeon has said she will set the legislative timetable for a second independence referendum in “the coming weeks” despite admitting we are “in the throes of a global pandemic that is still unpredictable”.

The First Minister said she was “determined” to give people a choice over their future, and being “on the downward slope” of the Omicron variant paved the way for that next year.

“The key thing is that we will take these steps in a timescale that will facilitate that referendum before the end of 2023, which was the commitment I made at the election, and was elected on overwhelmingly,” she said on the BBC’s Sunday Morning Show.

However in the same interview, Ms Sturgeon also said the pandemic remained highly unpredictable when she defended her Government’s Covid passports scheme. 


Asked when Scotland would scrap them, the First Minister said it was impossible to say “because we’re in the throes of a global pandemic that is still unpredictable”. 

Ms Sturgeon said she wants a new vote on leaving the UK, Covid permitting, by the end of 2023, although Boris Johnson has said he will block it.

Ms Sturgeon has said she will put in place the measures to facilitate a vote regardless, including passing a Referendum Bill at Holyrood, effectively daring the UK Government to challenge it at the Supreme Court.

However the Bill did not appear in the legislative timetable for the current Holyrood year, and there is still no date for its introduction.

Asking when the legislation would be tabled, Ms Sturgeon said: “The preparatory work for that is underway right now. We haven’t decided on the date that we would seek to introduce the Bill. We’ll decide that in the coming weeks.

“But my intention is to take the steps that will facilitate a referendum happening before the end of 2023. That’s the proposition that just short of a year ago I fought an election on, and was re-elected as First Minister, my party was re-elected with a historically high share of the vote.

“This is about democracy. This is about allowing the people of Scotland to choose our own future, and for goodness’ sake, when we look at everything that has been happening over years now in Westminster - the chaos, the instability, the unpredictability - then I think there are a growing number of people in Scotland who think, actually, we can do much better as an independent country in charge of our own fate.”

READ MORE: Devo-max option on Indyref2 ballot rejected by most Scots, poll shows

Host Sophie Raworth read Ms Sturgeon a list of the times she had previously promised moves towards Indyref2, including 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.

“When is going to be the right time?” Ms Raworth asked.

Ms Sturgeon ignored the premise of the question and confined her answer to saying that for the past two years she had prioritised the Covid pandemic and put Indyref2 on hold.

She said: “I am determined - I’ve won an election on this basis - to give people in Scotland the choice over our future and I believe that when that choice comes people will choose an independent future. 

“The preparatory work for that is underway and will determine the precise date for introducing that legislation in due course. We are hopefully… on the downward slope of this wave of Omicron which clears the way for us to do that. 

“The key thing is that we will take these steps in a timescale that will facilitate that referendum before the end of 2023, which was the commitment I made at the election, and was elected on overwhelmingly.”

She admitted some of the recent restrictions had had a “very adverse effect” on businesses, particularly hospitality,  however she said she thought they had been worth it.

She said doing nothing would not have been better or risk free.

Asked about the Scottish Government’s own evidence suggesting limited benefits from Covid passports, Ms Sturgeon was asked if she would bring them to an end or not.

She said: “Eventually, yes, I hope. More than hope, of course they will come to an end.”

Pressed for more detail, she said: “Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you a date for that because I would literally be making it up, because we’re in the throes of a global pandemic that is still unpredictable.” 

Asked if She envisaged people still wearing face masks for months or years to come, she said: “I hope not. I don’t want any of these measures to be in place for any longer than is necessary, but masks are something we can do. None of us enjoy wearing them, but they are perhaps not the biggest handicap to endure in order to try and stem transmission.

“So while they can make a difference to controlling the virus, then I think it is something we should do. I would suggest that it is England that is the outlier here, not Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or many other countries around the world.”  

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: "Nicola Sturgeon throws caution to the wind when it comes to her obsession with another divisive independence referendum.

"It's reckless to try and split up the country when there's an economic crisis facing working people and businesses. But as we know well by now, Nicola Sturgeon's first, last and only real priority is independence. 

"The SNP are out of touch with the Scottish public's priorities. Instead of trying to separate Scotland from the United Kingdom, they should be focusing on our economic recovery from Covid and protecting public services."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "The First Minister promised to put the recovery first.

"If that was the case she would be focusing on the A&E figures currently the worst on record, the 275,000 operations lost to the pandemic, the social care system on its knees or the soaring attainment gap in schools. We heard nothing about those this morning.

“Last week Nicola Sturgeon ordered her MSPs to vote down my plans for a new Burnout Prevention Plan for NHS staff in desperate need of extra protection.

"The news that her government is busy preparing the case for independence instead says everything about this SNP/Green Government’s priorities during this hardest of winters.

"Our country has been held back for too long by the clash of nationalisms. Scotland needs new hope for the climate, for health, for our young people and our businesses. It is the Scottish Liberal Democrats that will get on with putting forward the fresh ideas.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, added:
“The First Minister is completely out of touch with the priorities of the people of Scotland.

“Imagine if she devoted as much time to tackling the attainment gap, the NHS waiting times backlog, or the climate emergency as she does to trying to divide families, friends and communities.

"People are not daft and know that whatever they think of Boris Johnson, breaking up our country is not the answer.

“As part of the UK, Scotland’s best days are ahead of us, working together to build a successful shared future.”