Scottish Government launches new bill for independence
The draft legislation, announced by Nicola Sturgeon, will now go out to consultation.
The Scottish Government has launched a fresh drive for independence with a draft bill that would pave the way for a second referendum.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the draft legislation in a speech at the SNP conference in Glasgow last week.
The proposals, if carried through, would lead to another plebiscite being held before the UK exits the European Union.
In a foreword to the document, Sturgeon writes: "The UK Government's recent statements on its approach to leaving the EU raise serious concerns for the Scottish Government.
"We face unacceptable risks to our democratic, economic and social interests and to the right of the Scottish Parliament to have its say.
"Indeed, those statements contradict the assurances given before the independence referendum in 2014 that Scotland is an equal partner within the UK and that a vote against independence would secure our EU membership.
"For many people, this approach will be evidence of a wider democratic deficit within the UK, where decisions about Scotland are too often taken against the wishes of people who live here."
Some 62% of people living in Scotland voted Remain in the EU referendum but a majority of voters across the UK backed Leave.
The UK Government is now pursuing negotiations for the country's exit from the EU.
The Scottish Government opposes Brexit and ministers say they want Scotland to retain a strong relationship with Brussels.
Nicola Sturgeon has warned a so-called "hard Brexit" would provide grounds for holding a second vote on Scotland leaving the UK.
Sturgeon adds: "This government remains willing to work with the UK Government to negotiate a future relationship with Europe that is in line with the views of the overwhelming majority of the Scottish people and which works for the United Kingdom as a whole.
"We will put forward constructive proposals that will both protect Scotland's interests and give an opportunity for the UK Government to demonstrate that Scotland is indeed an equal partner.
"But if it becomes clear that it is only through independence that Scotland's interests can be protected then the people of Scotland must have the ability to reconsider that question and to do so before the UK leaves the EU."
The bill proposes a new referendum be run on much the same basis as the previous poll. It would enjoy the same franchise as the first, with over-16s domiciled in Scotland permitted to vote, including EU citizens.
It is also currently expected that the same question put to voters in 2014 would be used again: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"
As in 2014, the result would be decided by a simple majority rather than subject to any kind of supermajority or minimum turnout threshold.
If the First Minister decides to press ahead with a re-run of the 2014 vote, the document states a Section 30 order, also known as a legislative consent motion, would be "sought and agreed".
This means the UK Government would have to agree to indyref2 but would be expected to do so.
Downing Street would not be drawn on if the UK Government would agree to a second referendum.
A Number 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister and the Government does not believe that there is a mandate for one.
"There was one only two years ago. There was an extremely high turnout and there was a resounding result in favour of Scotland remaining in the UK."
He added that "both sides agreed to abide by that referendum".
Asked if UK ministers would reject a call for a second independence vote from the Scottish Government, the spokesman said: "There has not been a call."
The blueprint, which was released on Thursday morning, will now go out for consultation. The deadline for responses has been set for January 11, 2017.