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Sturgeon: SNP still has mandate for second independence referendum before 2021

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon listens on as Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood delivers the fraternal address at the Scottish National Party conference at the SEC Centre in Glasgow on Monday. Picture by Jane Barlow, Press Association
Lynsey Bews, Press Association

The SNP still has a mandate to hold a second independence referendum before the next Holyrood elections in 2021, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The first minister has repeatedly stated she would not set a date for a ballot until there was greater clarity on Brexit.

However, she has not ruled out holding another vote within the next four years.

She told STV News: "Let me just, for the sake of clarity... we have a mandate for this parliament.

"We won that mandate last year but after the general election I heard clearly people saying with the uncertainty of Brexit it was premature to be definitive abut a timescale right now."

She added: "So I have said I will not consider the timescale until there is a greater clarity about the Brexit talks.

"I am not going to go any further than that, that's my position."

Ms Sturgeon has been questioned on the issue in a number of broadcast interviews as the SNP hold its three-day autumn conference in Glasgow.

She had initially called for a vote to be held in the autumn of next year or the spring of 2019, but, following the loss of 21 seats in June's general election, she put the timing on hold until the terms of Brexit become clearer.

Her political opponents have urged her to ditch another vote entirely, while some figures within the SNP have called for it to be delayed until after the 2021 election.

While plans for another referendum will not be debated on the conference floor, Ms Sturgeon is expected to confront the issue when she delivers her speech to delegates on Tuesday.

The SNP leader is also expected to focus heavily on Brexit, with Scottish ministers highly critical of the UK Government's approach to negotiations with the European Union.

Speaking on BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Ms Sturgeon said: "Increasingly the UK right now is engulfed in chaos, we are seeing a developing disaster, in my view, with the Brexit negotiations.

"And the case for Scotland taking control of our own future, having the decisions that shape our future in our own hands, in my view gets stronger by the day".

Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly said: "The voters sent Nicola Sturgeon a message loud and clear in the general election – when the SNP lost almost half its MPs – that they do not want another divisive independence referendum.

"It is time the first minister listened to that message and ruled out another divisive referendum for the duration of this parliament."

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