NICOLA Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie are to launch the first in a series of papers setting out a new prospectus for independence tomorrow.

The First Minister and Green co-leader Patrick Harvie will publish the paper  at Bute House.

The opposition parties called it the “reckless” pursuit of a Nationalist “obsession”.

The paper is intended to act as a “scene setter” for a new multi-part prospectus, which is called “Building a new Scotland”.

The Scottish Government said the papers will enable people to make an “informed choice about Scotland’s future before any referendum takes place”.

However there remains uncertainty about whether a referendum will happen.

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Sturgeon was asked if tomorrow's event marked the formal start of an Indyref2 campaign.

The First Minister said: "Yes. We said we would after the Covid situation allowed.

"Tomorrow, we will publish the first in what will be a series of papers making afresh the case for independence in an interdependent world.

"The world, both domestically and internationally, has changed substantially since Scotland voted in 2014.

"The first paper will very much be a scene-setter - it will look through a wealth of evidence at the economic and social performance of the UK and Scotland within that, compared to a range of other countries across Europe.

"The conclusion, very clearly, is Scotland could be doing much better as an independent country."

She said future papers would look at currency, the fiscal position of Scotland, growing a more sustainable economy, defence and security, pensions, social security, EU membership and trade.

But asked when a Bill would be introduced to pave the way for a referendum, Ms Sturgeon she said it would not be published tomorrow, although she would say more about legislation in "the weeks to come".

If the Bill is not published by the end of the month, it cannot be introduced at Holyrood until September, after the summer recess, making her timetable for a vote in 2023 extremely tight.

She said: "There are two principles that are really important in all of this.

"Democracy is the first. The Scottish people gave my party, my government, a mandate for an independence referendum in the election last year. I intend to honour that.

"The second principle is rule of law. Any process has to be lawful and legal.

"If we had a UK Government that respected democracy, that would be resolved in the way it was in 2014 with a Section 30 order."

“We are dealing right now with a UK Government that respects neither democracy nor the rule of law. So we have to work out - this work is underway - how we navigate our way towards a lawful process with a UK Government that doesn’t respect democracy. That’s what we are doing.”

Asked if she knew if it would be lawful to proceed with an independence referendum without UK consent, Ms Sturgeon said: “Without a Section 30 order we all know that the competence of the Scottish Parliament to legislate is contested. It hasn’t yet been tested. But that is the issue we are currently navigating so that we can deliver a lawful process.

“Now I’m not going to go into more detail about that right now, or tomorrow, but I will set out more detail on that shortly.”

Asked if she believed Indyref2 would really happen by the end of the end of 2023, Ms Sturgeon said: “Yes.”

Asked “How?”, she replied: “As I’ve said, I will set out the process that we will take forward to ensure that can happen. You won’t have to wait too much longer.”

Asked if now was the right time for a referendum with the public services under strain and other pressures in society, Ms Sturgeon said: “Now is exactly the time for all the reasons we’ve been talking about.

"Independence is not abstract, it’s not separate from all these big challenges that we face, it’s exactly about how we best equip ourselves to navigate those challenges, so we don't have our budget set by Westminster and we’re in charge of these decisions ourselves.

"Yes, this is the time to decide how Scotland best equips itself, best positions itself, to face up to these challenges and to fulfil the massive potential we have.”

The Scottish Government said the paper would detail how nearby European countries comparable to Scotland "use their full powers of independence to tailor policies to their own specific circumstances" and in doing so achieve better economic and social outcomes than the UK".

It said Scotland already had the "resources to be a successful independent nation including a surplus of natural energy, a brilliant food and drink sector, world-class universities, advanced manufacturing and a world-leading approach to climate change".

Ms Sturgeon added: "Having the full powers of independence does not guarantee a better future – that will depend on the abilities of the people who live here and the quality of the decisions they make – but it is striking just how successful neighbouring countries of Scotland are, compared with the UK.

“They can help point the way to a new Scotland that is wealthier and fairer, more resilient and better placed to help people with issues such as the cost of living crisis than a UK Government committed to a hard Brexit whatever the cost.

“The Building a New Scotland series will set out openly the challenges a newly independent Scotland would face, how they could be overcome as well as the opportunities that come with independence – as demonstrated by the success of comparable independent nations as well as our own resources and talents.

“Scotland’s future is a matter for all the people who live here and I look forward to the debate on how we can build that new better country we know is possible.”    

Ms Sturgeon has said she intends to hold a referendum next year, but Boris Johnson has refused to grant Holyrood the power it needs to stage a legally watertight vote.

The First Minister has threatened to pass a unilateral Indyref2 Bill at Holyrood if the PM continues to block a referendum, but this could be struck down at the UK Supreme Court.

The Scottish Government last week released some of the legal advice it received in 2020 around Indyref2, but this did not cover whether a unilateral vote would be legal.

The 2014 referendum was predicated on a transfer of power under a so-called Section 30 order, but no such order currently exists for a future referendum. 

Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “Nicola Sturgeon is wilfully ignoring Scotland’s priorities to push ahead with plans for a second divisive independence referendum in 2023.

“The vast majority of Scottish people don’t want the distraction of another referendum next year. They want the government 100% focused on our recovery from the pandemic, the global cost-of-living crisis, supporting our NHS and protecting jobs. 

"Yet Nicola Sturgeon is recklessly pressing ahead with her obsession anyway. This is nothing short of shameful when the country is facing so many momentous challenges.

“The distraction and disruption of another bitter referendum debate is the last thing Scotland needs right now.

He added: ““Nicola Sturgeon should be fully focused on helping people through this difficult period, not diverting government resources and vast sums of public money towards the SNP's obsession.

"The Scottish people want to see an SNP Government focused on key tasks such as building ferries, not on breaking up the UK."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Nicola Sturgeon has launched more independence campaigns than ferries.

“This coalition is about one thing and one thing only. Ministers are devoting their attention, top civil servants and tens of millions of pounds to independence.

“They care more about their independence obsession than everyone stuck on the longest NHS waiting lists in history, the cost of living crisis or the climate emergency. Nobody believes education is Nicola Sturgeon’s top priority any more.

“The SNP and Greens are taking people for granted. Let’s lay aside talk of an independence referendum and get to grips with what matters right now.”

Labour Constitution spokesperson Sarah Boyack added: “People are struggling to put food on the table during the worst cost of living crisis in a decade but the SNP-Green government’s attention is still on their constitutional obsession.   

“We should be working together to tackle the cost of living crisis now – but instead the SNP-Green government want to tear us apart.

“This is an appalling waste of time, energy and money when our public services are being cut to the bone.

“Far from making us wealthier, happier and fairer, the SNP and the Greens are putting our future at risk with plans that would make Brexit look like a walk in the park.

“Instead of scrambling to patch over the countless glaring holes in their plans, they should be focused on delivering for Scotland now.”