LEGISLATION to hold a second independence referendum using Holyrood powers is to be introduced into the Scottish Parliament imminently, according to the Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie.

Mr Harvie, who is also a minister in the Scottish Government, also underlined that it was still the administration's plan to hold a vote on the country's future next year despite the invasion of Ukraine.

Asked by The Herald when the bill will laid before MSPs, he said: "I think there will be an announcement on that before too long. I don't think a date has absolutely been fixed. 

"There are one or two hoops the Scottish Government has to jump through before formally laying a bill like submitting it to the Presiding Officer.

"But the bill itself will be fairly short and simple actually as the last parliament already passed framework legislation for referendums.

"So we don't actually need a big and substantive a bill as we had for the last one because we already have all of that framework legislation in place.

"So you will hear before very long what the timescale is for that but it will be fully in line with the intention to hold an independence referendum in the timescale that we promised."

Earlier this week the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford suggested there could be a delay to Indyref2 in wake of the war in Ukraine.

But Mr Harvie said: "Obviously the events of the next few weeks may determine whether this is a crisis that is de-escalated or one which becomes that much more dangerous and much more protracted European war that we all want to avoid.

"We want to do everything we can, of course, to argue for de-escalation and to try and make that successful."

"We want to do everything we possibly can - more than the UK Goverrnment has done so far - to support the people fleeing that crisis in the biggest humanitarian crisis Europe has seen since the Second World War. 

"So obviously there are really urgent issues to address there and to try and do everything we can do to work with our international partners to achieve that." 

He added: "But I don't think that everything else that the Scottish Government has promised to do between now and 2026 needs to be put on hold. We have a great deal of other work, whether that is the heat and building work, commitments on biodiversity...or indeed whether it is the promise that we made to the people of Scotland to give them the choice about their own constitutional future.

"I don't think we should shelve the rest of the Scottish Government's programme, including this question." 

Pressed whether the Holyrood Referendum Bill would be introduced before the Easter recess which begins on April 2, he said: "I don't think a date has been absolutely fixed at the moment. You have to go through some pre introduction stages before you lay a bill in Holyroood...I don't think you will have long to wait."

Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon said she still hopes to hold an independence referendum next year. 

Her comments came after Mr Blackford seemed to suggest the Scottish Government's planned timetable for the poll could be delayed because of the conflict in Ukraine.

But in an interview with LBC, when the First Minister was asked whether the current geopolitical situation had impacted her thinking on the referendum in 2023, she replied: “My plans and my thinking hasn't changed.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “We, right now, should be reminded, above all else, how lucky we are to live in a free democracy where we can put forward our case for political constitutional change, argue that case passionately, whatever our views on that might be, and trust people to decide.

“I support independence for a whole variety of reasons, but one of the motivations for my support for independence is to see Scotland play a bigger role, albeit as a small country, in building a more peaceful world, to be a progressive, constructive international partner, to be a progressive country that welcomes refugees.

"And sees Scotland as a place of sanctuary, a country that sees the benefits we stand to gain from having people come here and make a contribution to our society. And, actually, all of these issues right now, I think are brought into sharp focus by the tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine.”

Responding to Mr Harvie, Scottish Conservative Shadow Constitution Secretary Donald Cameron said: “It is crystal clear that the nationalist coalition’s overriding priority will always be independence.

“Whether it’s a war in Europe or a global pandemic, separation always comes first for this SNP-Green Government.

“Patrick Harvie talking up the prospect of another divisive referendum in the next year is completely reckless.

“It is the last thing Scotland needs right now. Instead of talking about an imminent indyref2 bill, the SNP-Green Government should be fully focused on supporting the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine."

He added: “Domestically they should be prioritising our recovery from the pandemic, rather than wasting government time and resources on a vote most Scots do not want.

“In an increasingly uncertain world, the nationalists should not be pushing more constitutional upheaval by agitating for Scotland to break away from the United Kingdom.”

Scottish Labour Constitution spokeswoman Sarah Boyack said: “A divisive and damaging referendum is the last thing we need as we deal with the lasting effects of the pandemic and a growing cost of living crisis.

“Our NHS is at breaking point, bills are soaring, and our economy is on the brink.

“Instead of taking on these issues, the SNP and the Greens are determined to waste time, money and energy on their separatist plans.

“We came together to beat Covid and now we should be working together to build a greener and fairer Scotland.

“The SNP and the Greens need to focus on the issues that really matter to people, instead of trying to tear communities apart.”