ANGUS Robertson has cast doubt on Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a second independence referendum next year, conceding a vote may not happen then.

The SNP Constitution Secretary said Indyref2 would happen “sooner or later” but not necessarily on the First Minister’s preferred date of 19 October 2023.

“A referendum will come at some stage,” he said.

Mr Robertson made the comments in an interview with the France24 TV channel on the eve of the SNP’s annual conference in Aberdeen.

Ms Sturgeon said in June that she wanted to hold Indyref2 next year if the UK Supreme Court said Holyrood could do so under its existing powers - without Westminster’s consent.

If that was not possible, she said she would fight the next general election as a “de facto referendum” on the single question of independence.

Mr Robertson’s comments suggest party thinking has moved beyond the UK Supreme Court, which is due to hear arguments on the issue next week, onto longer-term options.

He said: “A referendum will come - at some stage. We’re planning for October next year.”

Asked if he was confident about that, Mr Robertson did not say yes.

Instead he said: “It is going to come. Among the youngest voters in Scotland, so between 16-25, 25-35, support for independence is running at between 60 and 70 per cent. So it’s going to come sooner or later. 

“Arguably the UK Government should agree to a referendum as soon as possible because the longer they wait the worse it’s going to be for them.”

Most legal experts believe the Supreme Court will rule Holyrood cannot stage Indyref2 under its current powers as the issue relates to the reserved matter of the Union.

There are also doubts among opposition parties and senior nationalists about the practicality of a single-issue general election campaign when voters may well be more concerned about the cost of living crisis, energy bills and mortgage payments.

Even if the SNP and Greens won a majority of the vote in Scotland, the UK Government could refuse to recognise the result as a mandate for independence.