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First Minister to make 'detailed' independence speech

Nicola Sturgeon will set out her path forward for Scotland in an address to the Scottish Parliament.

Nicola Sturgeon: Statement comes days before SNP conference (file pic).
Nicola Sturgeon: Statement comes days before SNP conference (file pic).

Nicola Sturgeon will make a "detailed and substantive" speech on Wednesday about plans for Scottish independence, her spokesman has confirmed.

The First Minister is due to make a 30-minute statement in the Scottish Parliament setting out her "thoughts on independence and how that relates to where the country currently finds itself".

Ms Sturgeon's spokesman said: "The First Minister will give a detailed and substantive statement setting out the path forward for Scotland amid the ongoing Brexit confusion at Westminster.

"The First Minister will take time to set out her thoughts on that front and in doing so she will seek to strike an inclusive tone."

The Scottish Parliament Bureau, which determines day-to-day business at Holyrood, confirmed it has approved Ms Sturgeon's request to address MSPs on Wednesday afternoon, followed by an hour of questions.

With the statement coming just days before the SNP's party conference in Edinburgh, the spokesman said Ms Sturgeon had opted to make the statement "at the first available opportunity" since the EU granted a six-month extension to the Article 50 process.

After a cabinet briefing on Tuesday morning, ministers were said to be "happy" with details of Ms Sturgeon's plans to address Parliament, with her spokesman adding: "There was positive feedback from Cabinet colleagues."

Ms Sturgeon is not thought to have notified Theresa May or Downing Street of her planned statement.

Asked what the Prime Minister's response would be to calls for a Section 30 order to pave the way for a second independence referendum, her official spokesman said: "You know the Prime Minister's position on that and it has not changed.

"First and foremost, let's wait and see what the First Minister says."

Latest polling from December, published on the impartial What Scotland Thinks website, suggests another referendum would be 51% to 45% in favour of no to independence.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: "Nicola Sturgeon can produce no evidence that the people of Scotland want another independence referendum.

"This debate is a distraction from the real and serious problems Scotland faces - a low pay economy, exhausted public services and 1 in 4 children living in poverty.

"The mess of Brexit throws into sharp relief the challenges of leaving a political and economic union. The answer to challenges of the UK leaving the EU is not and never will be Scotland leaving the UK."

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