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Nicola Sturgeon 'up for discussion' on independence referendum date

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon during the SNP Spring Conference in Aberdeen

SCOTLAND'S first minister has said she wants to find a referendum date that both sides can agree on.

Nicola Sturgeon said she was "up for continued discussion" with Prime Minister Theresa May on the matter.

Ms May insisted this week that "now was not the time" for a second vote on independence for Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon said it was imperative for a vote on Scotland's constitutional future to take place once a deal had been agreed on the UK exiting the EU.

The focus on a Scottish independence referendum comes as the SNP gathered for its spring conference in Aberdeen.

SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson said "Scotland's referendum is going to happen", despite the "Tory arrogance" of Ms May.

The party's Westminster leader accused Ms May of "wagging her finger" and treating Scots like they "should shut up and sit on the naughty step" after she rebuffed Ms Sturgeon's proposals to hold a vote between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

Mr Robertson told the conference in Aberdeen: "Let there be no doubt, Scotland will have its referendum and the people of this country will have their choice... they will not be denied their say.

"Just in case some people in Whitehall aren't listening, Scotland's referendum is going to happen, and no UK Prime Minister should dare to stand in the way of Scottish democracy."

He said that if the PM "refuses" talks over the terms of a second independence referendum before the Brexit deal is complete, "she is effectively trying to block the people of Scotland having a choice over their future".

Mr Robertson said that would be a "democratic outrage".

"If Scotland can be ignored on an issue as important as our membership of the EU and the single market, then it is clear that our voice and our interests can be ignored at any time and on any issue," he said.

"So when the terms of Brexit are known - and not before - we will give the people the choice over the direction Scotland should take, before it is too late to change course.

"Before people make that choice we will set out the challenges and opportunities of independence. In particular we will set out how to secure our relationship with Europe, build a stronger economy, a fairer society, and forge a genuine partnership of equals across these islands."

With MSPs expected to next week back Ms Sturgeon's demand for a Section 30 order permitting Holyrood to hold a legally binding referendum, Mr Robertson stressed the "big question" is whether Mrs May will "respect Scottish democracy".

He said: "If the Scottish Parliament decides that there should be a referendum after the Brexit negotiations are concluded, but before Scotland is dragged out of the EU, will she respect that?

"Will she give a clear and unambiguous statement today that she will respect the wishes of Scotland's national Parliament? If she does not, this will be the proof that the Tories have returned to the bad old days of Thatcher's Britain running roughshod over Scotland and we will not accept that."

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