Sturgeon attacked as independence plot exposed – SNP discussed vote in private meeting

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The Scottish Conservatives say new documents prove the SNP government’s official position is to hold indyref2 at some stage during 2021 and they are now calling on the First Minister to confirm another poll will not be held this year. The claims come after a Freedom of Information (FoI) response revealed SNP Constitution Minister Mike Russell told foreign government officials at a private meeting in early November that he wanted a second referendum “by end 2021.”

Nicola Sturgeon puts on a false face and pretends to have paused her indyref2 campaign

Douglas Ross

Mr Russell is understood to have made the comments at the meeting with Australian High Commissioner George Brandis on November 10, just eight weeks ago.

Official minutes from the meeting released under FoI rules say: “Mike Russell set out the intention to publish a draft Bill before the end of the parliamentary terms which sets out the question to be asked and the timescale in which, within the next term of Parliament, we consider the referendum should be held.

“Mike Russell noted following the Scottish elections in May 2021 there could then be no democratic justification for the UK Government to ignore the rights of the people of Scotland to choose their own future.

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“George Brandis inquired about the proposed timing of the referendum post the Scottish election.

“Mike Russell confirmed he would hope a second referendum could be held by end of 2021.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said Ms Sturgeon must now distance her government from Mr Russell’s comments and announce that the SNP Government’s position is no longer to hold an independence vote this year.

Mr Ross said: “In her BBC statements, Nicola Sturgeon puts on a false face and pretends to have paused her indyref2 campaign but the SNP’s constitution minister let slip the reality to overseas officials.

“This document shows that while virus rates increase rapidly, the SNP Government’s official position is to hold indyref2 in 2021.

“Nothing could be more reckless when our entire focus should be on fighting the pandemic.”

He continued: “Nicola Sturgeon’s self-declared cautious approach obviously doesn’t apply to a second independence referendum. When that’s the topic, she abandons sense in a heartbeat.

“A responsible First Minister would today denounce her constitution minister’s comments and confirm her government has u-turned and will no longer push for a second independence referendum this year, to get all the focus back on to the fight against Covid-19.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden said: “FoI shows the SNP want to hold another divisive indyref THIS YEAR. As we fight to contain and recover from the pandemic.”

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The SNP has repeatedly said a predicted pro-independence majority in Holyrood following elections this year should be enough to secure the powers for another referendum that have so far been denied by Westminster.

In an interview with the BBC in October, Mr Russell said he was “sure” another referendum could take place before the end of this year.

Ms Sturgeon insists planning for a second independence referendum will be put on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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