FM announces new IndyRef2 Bill

FM announces new IndyRef2 Bill

The FM has told the Holyrood parliament she'll bring forward a framework referendum Bill soon.

In her statement to the Scottish Parliament she set out her view that the shambles of Brexit had made Independence more likely and that "A choice between Brexit and independence should be offered in the lifetime of this Parliament". The next Holyrood elections are scheduled for May 2021.

As expected she didn't set a specific date for a second independence referendum - partly because she requires Westminster agreement to transfer power to Holyrood via a Section 30 order so she can hold one and partly because she doesn't have the public support ..yet.

She had a difficult line to tread as her own party are split between those who think she's right to be cautious and those, like the Greens, who think she should march ahead.

She said Scotland should "try to avoid the mistakes that have caused so much division over Brexit and try to bring people together to find the common ground which exists ". She attempted to set a consensual tone, calling on opposition parties to bring forward their own plans for constitutional change. Never and easy thing to do when you're also announcing you're to bring forward a Referendum Bill to put the framework for another , potentially divisive, referendum in place soon. Her aim is that that legislation should be passed this year.

The First Minister announced:

  • A framework bill for a second independence referendum would be tabled before the end of the current parliamentary session.
  • A Section 30 order giving the Scottish Government the power to hold the referendum was not immediately necessary. Ministers would seek the agreement of the UK Government during the progress of the Bill. Worth remembering Theresa May has point blank refused her request so far.
  •  Michael Russell will lead a new series of cross-party talks to find common ground on further devolution.
  • The establishment of a Citizen’s Assembly to discuss the constitution. This will be independently chaired and will consist of a representative cross-section of society.

Her three point plan of a Referendum Bill , cross party discussions and a Citizens Assembly have failed to bring the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties on side while the Greens think she's not gone far enough.

MSPs were also updated on the scaling back of Scottish Government no-deal preparations following the extension. The First Minister called on the UK Government to “take no-deal completely off the table” and revoke Article 50 if a negotiated withdrawal could not be agreed. She also reiterated her support for a second EU referendum. On the constitution, the First Minister insisted the Westminster system of government and the current devolution settlement did not serve Scotland’s interests, claiming the status quo was “broken.” She argued that there was a risk of devolution going backwards and that independence offered the best future.

Text of FM statement