Nicola Sturgeon to launch new drive for Scottish independence

Nicola Sturgeon has a message for the Prime Minister

Nicola Sturgeon will today launch a fresh bid to convince Scots to back independence, hailing the drive as the "biggest ever political listening exercise".

The First Minister, who has already acknowledged her party's need to win over No voters from the 2014 referendum, will say the campaign will mark a "new conversation and a new debate for these new times".

The SNP leader was cheered by supporters when she announced plans for a summer initiative to boost support for leaving the UK at her party conference in March this year.

In the wake of the turmoil caused by UK's vote to quit the European Union, and with Labour in-fighting increasing the prospects of the Tories remaining in power at Westminster, the SNP believes the time is right to look again at Scotland's constitutional future.

The "seismic changes" that took place over the summer will have a "deep impact", Ms Sturgeon will say.

The First Minister will add: "The UK that existed before June 23 has fundamentally changed.

"The debate now is whether we should go forward, protecting our place as a European nation or go backwards, under a Tory government with very different priorities.

"And while we will pursue all options to protect our interests, the debate must include an examination of independence in what are profoundly changed circumstances

"To ensure that the voice of everyone in Scotland is heard in these changed times, I am today launching Scotland's biggest ever political listening exercise - a new conversation and a new debate for these new times."

She will launch her renewed drive for independence at an event in Stirling, where William Wallace won a historic battle against the English in 1297.

The event comes nearly nearly two years on from the September 2014 referendum, which saw Scots vote by 55% to 45% in favour or remaining in the United Kingdom.

But immediately after the Brexit vote in June this year, which saw Scots vote to stay in the EU while the UK opted to leave, Ms Sturgeon warned that a second vote on the matter was "highly likely".

The Scottish Government is already drawing up legislation that could pave the way for another ballot on independence, and while Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have all vowed to oppose this, the minority SNP administration could see a referendum Bill passed if it is backed by the Scottish Greens.

Labour MSP James Kelly said his party would oppose holding a second second referendum during the five years of this Holyrood term.

He said: "If the SNP were really listening to the people of Scotland they would be focusing on the bread and butter issues that matter to Scots like our public services.

"It is disappointing that, days before laying a legislative agenda before the most powerful Scottish Parliament ever, the SNP are determined to drag us back to the arguments of the past."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "Nicola Sturgeon has already decided that independence is the answer to Brexit.

"She is therefore only pretending to listen. With the chaos of Brexit we do not need further chaos with the threat of independence."