Legislation that could pave the way for a second Scottish independence referendum is to be tabled at Holyrood, with Nicola Sturgeon insisting voters must have the chance to “choose a better future than the one being offered by Westminster”.
She said the Brexit vote and the European elections – where the SNP increased its share of the vote while Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party made big gains south of the border – showed a “tale of two countries” within the UK.
Scotland is “diverging markedly in our outlook, ambition and vision for the future”, the First Minister added.
She spoke out as the Scottish Government prepared to formally introduce legislation which will lay down the regulations for a future ballot.
Speaking during a visit to Dublin on Monday, she indicated the “latter half” of 2020 could be the “right time” for the issue to be put to Scots again.
A statement on the “next steps for Scotland’s future” is to be made in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament at lunchtime on Wednesday.
It comes after the European elections, where the SNP – who had campaigned strongly on an anti-Brexit platform – returned three of the six Scottish MEPs.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs of her plans to bring forward legislation in a statement to Holrood last month.
Speaking before the publication of the Bill she said: “Scotland must have the chance to choose a better future than the one being offered by Westminster.”
She claimed the “Westminster political system is broken” and “cannot be trusted to acknowledge, far less protect or defend” Scottish interests.
She continued: “Scotland has been ignored throughout the whole Brexit process, with the UK Government’s behaviour making an utter mockery of the concept of the union as a partnership of equals.
“What is emerging – and what has become even clearer in recent days – is a tale of two countries, with Scotland diverging markedly in our outlook, ambition and vision for the future.
“People living here must have the opportunity to choose a future for Scotland as an equal, independent European nation.”
Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said: “It will come as no surprise to anybody in Scotland that Nicola Sturgeon has decided to use the EU elections to manufacture the case for a second independence referendum.
“This latest stunt is all about Nicola Sturgeon pandering to her party, not speaking for the country.
“At a time when we need to focus on the challenges on education, the economy and public services, this proves that the SNP has become a waste of parliamentary space.
“No matter what people in Scotland say or do, the SNP’s answer is always the same – to take us out of the UK.
“When will she listen? Only one in five people in Scotland say they want a referendum under Nicola Sturgeon’s absurd timetable. People have had enough.”