Nicola Sturgeon could seek second Scottish independence referendum by Christmas, signals SNP

Nicola Sturgeon attending First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh. Picture

Nicola Sturgeon attending First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh - Credit: PA

Nicola Sturgeon could seek a second referendum on Scottish independence by Christmas, an SNP minister has signalled.

Scots could soon be heading to the polls to decide whether their nation should formally break free from Westminster, the SNP's constitution minister has suggested.

Michael Russell, an architect of the SNP's road map to independence, said the vote could be held six months after Holyrood passed a referendum bill, which is expected in June.

Russell last week said Holyrood was prepared to act unilaterally to stage another referendum if Westminster continued to refuse one, putting both administrations on a collision course that would end in the courts.

Speaking in an online forum, Russell said it was yet too early to set a date for the vote but hoped it would happen "very soon" but it all depended upon the pandemic subsiding.

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"Best practice for referendums suggests that six months should expire between the legislation and the referendum," he said.

This comes after 20 consecutive polls showing a majority of Scots favouring independence prompted a visit to Glasgow by the prime minister on Thursday.

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Johnson has only visited Scotland four times since becoming prime minister - twice while in office, and two times during the election. He hopes to turn that record on its head with a plan to tour the nation once every two months to promote the benefits of the union.

Some Tory colleagues are concerned these visits could be counterproductive given how unpopular Johnson is in the eyes of Scots.

If Sturgeon does push ahead with a referendum, the Tories would encourage voters to boycott what they would portray as an illegitimate exercise.

This comes as former prime minister Gordon Brown wrote to Johnson urging radical reform of the way the UK is governed or face the country becoming a "failed state".

"While the crisis is deepest in Scotland, it is far from alone," Brown wrote, calling for Johnson to consider ideas like replacing the House of Lords with a “senate of the regions”.

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