Nicola SturgeonImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon has said she will reflect on the issue of a second independence vote

Scotland’s first minister has branded speculation about the impact of the general election on her plans for an independence referendum as “nonsense”.

In a series of tweets, Nicola Sturgeon said she would set out the way forward “in due course after talking to people across the SNP”.

And she insisted she would take decisions in the best interests of Scotland, and not just her party.

She will face calls at Holyrood later to abandon her plans for a referendum.

MSPs are expected to use a debate on the economy to argue that the continuing prospect of another vote on independence would cause damaging uncertainty for businesses.

But Scottish government ministers, who did not discuss an independence referendum in their first cabinet meeting since the election, will argue that the main threat to the economy is Brexit.

Ms Sturgeon has written a letter to the prime minister in which she argues that new Brexit proposals are “urgently needed” to end the “confusion surrounding the UK’s position” with less than a week to go until talks with the EU are due to begin.

She repeats her calls for Scotland and the UK to remain in both the single market and the customs union, and for the UK’s devolved administrations to be involved in the Brexit negotiating team.

She says that the Scottish government’s Scotland’s Place in Europe document, which was published in December, provides a blueprint for the way forward for the whole of the UK.

And she again calls on the UK government to immediately guarantee the rights of EU citizens to continue living in the UK after Brexit.

Image copyright @NicolaSturgeon

Ms Sturgeon has previously said she will “reflect carefully” on her plans for an independence referendum after the SNP lost 21 seats in the general election, but had conceded that her call for a second vote on leaving the UK was a factor in the result.

She had called in March for a referendum to be held either towards the end of next year or the spring of the following year, “when the terms of Brexit are known”.

On Wednesday morning, the first minister tweeted that much of the media speculation about the implications of the election result for her referendum plans was “nonsense”.

She added: “I’ll set out way forward in due course after talking to people across @theSNP.

“I’ll take decisions in best interests, not just of @theSNP, but of Scotland…and not be dictated to by demands for quick headlines!”

She went on to say that her government would focus on trying to influence Brexit talks – and repeated her claim that a “Tory led hard Brexit is simply not acceptable” in the wake of the election result.

Analysis by Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor

Will the SNP abandon independence? No. Will they abandon a referendum as the conduit through which independence is achieved? Absolutely not.

So what are they doing? Well, they may need to change the nature of the language.

I think they feel that they didn’t get across sufficiently the point that the referendum they want on independence is at the end of the Brexit process.

They kept saying: “When the prime minister says there shouldn’t be a referendum now, we agree”. So I think they will try and re-emphasise that.

That will not be sufficient for their pro-Union opponents, who will say they don’t care how it is rebranded or that it is being placed in contradistinction to Brexit – it is not wanted and it is not needed.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who saw the number of Scottish Tory MPs rise from one to 13, has claimed that the SNP’s losses in the election meant that “Indyref2 is dead”.

In what will be the first formal chance for MSPs to debate the general election result, the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats will call on the SNP to shelve plans for another referendum.

The Holyrood debate on “opportunities for growth” follows publication of the State of the Economy report by the Scottish government’s chief economist.

The report confirmed growth overall in Scotland during 2016 of 0.4%, which was “below trend and expectation”.

The oil and gas sector downturn continued to affect the economy last year, though there are emerging signs of confidence returning to the industry, the report found.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ruth Davidson has insisted that plans for a second independence referendum were now “dead”

Meanwhile, Scotland’s labour market has “remained resilient”, with unemployment below the UK figure and falling over the past year.

The report states: “Brexit continues to present a significant risk to business and consumer sentiment in Scotland with investment sensitive to changing market signals.

“It also presents the greatest source of uncertainty for the outlook particularly beyond 2018. The range of independent forecasts for 2017 suggest growth of between 0.9% and 1.3% for Scotland.”

Economy Secretary Keith Brown said there was no doubt that the dip in oil and gas prices in recent years has had “a continuing effect on the Scottish economy”.

Lower unemployment

The minister said uncertainty around Brexit was the main concern for business leaders, while the “very rapid” depreciation in the price of oil and gas has had a major effect.

But Mr Brown said there were signs of returning confidence and development activity in the North Sea, and pointed out that Scotland now has a lower unemployment rate than the UK as a whole.

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “What we are now seeing with Brexit is the push up in inflation, the impact that is having on people’s lives in terms of wages.

“So that’s the challenge we have now – but we have kept many people in employment throughout the recession and subsequent Brexit uncertainty.”


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