‘It pushes your timetable back!’ Sturgeon squirms after climbing down on IndyRef2 promise

IndyRef2: Curtice discusses Sturgeon’s independence plan

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Nicola Sturgeon promised Scottish voters that there would be an independence referendum by 2023 during her SNP party conference but appeared flustered when quizzed on the timetabling of the vote. Ms Sturgeon appeared on STV’s Scotland Tonight and was told the pandemic, potential court challenges and passing legislation through Holyrood would be a long-winded process that could alter the 2023 deadline she set. Ms Sturgeon refused to address the concerns head-on and instead told the broadcaster she would do “everything that is within my power to enable that referendum”.

Speaking on STV, Ms Sturgeon was asked whether she would be unable to commit to her 2023 deadline due to several challenges which could emerge over the next few months.

The SNP leader replied: “My plans haven’t changed from what I set out at the end of last year…

“I want to give the people of Scotland to choose independence before the end of 2023.

“We will take the steps, this year, both in terms of the practical preparations but also the substantive case on independence to enable that to happen.”

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Ms Sturgeon was quizzed on what date she would propose a bill to Holyrood on the matter but she refused to give one.

She was then told there was the real chance the disruptions “all push your timetable back” with Ms Sturgeon struggling to come up with a straight answer to potential court challenges to her referendum.

She told the broadcaster she could not control the court challenges, adding: “I intend to do everything that is within my power to enable that referendum to happen before the end of 2023, and we will set out exactly what that means in terms of the date of the introduction of legislation when we’ve taken the detailed decisions around that.”

Ms Sturgeon then said Scotland had to “suffer” under the UK Government during the pandemic and through Brexit and that it was right to give voters a choice on whether they want that to continue.

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The Scottish leader told journalists in April that her 2023 target was dependent on the virus and whether the pandemic was being sufficiently handled.

She said: “I’ve said the starting point for me in terms of timing is after we’re out of the pandemic. People say ‘what does that mean’ – that will be a question of judgement as we go through this pandemic.”

Ms Sturgeon said it would not be appropriate for Scotland to hold a referendum if the country was still “grappling” with Covid.

Earlier in her interview with STV, Ms Sturgeon discussed how Scotland needed to “live with Covid” in a sign the Scottish Government is considering reducing restrictions.

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The First Minister announced on Tuesday a revision of the “fully vaccinated” categorisation which now requires a booster jab.

Ms Sturgeon also said the reduction in cases in Scotland may lead to a lifting of restrictions in the coming weeks.

She said: “While the number of people in hospital with Covid has continued to increase over the past week – putting significant additional pressure on the NHS – there are signs that the rate of increase may be starting to slow down…

“I hope this will allow us to lift the other protective measures limits on indoor live events, table service in hospitality and distancing in indoor public pleases – from 24 January.”

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