The Scottish Government will publish draft legislation on holding a second independence referendum next week, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The Scottish First Minister made the announcement at the SNP conference in Glasgow where she was greeted with a standing ovation from delegates.
The SNP leader said her party would lead the fight against the Conservatives’ plans for hard Brexit, attacking the “right wing” Government in Westminster.
Ms Sturgeon opened her party’s annual conference in Glasgow on Thursday by warning that the “right wing of the Tory Party is now in the ascendancy” and that it wanted to “hijack” the referendum result.
She also started by “warmly congratulating” MP Angus Robertson on his election as her deputy leader, which was announced minutes before.
Ms Sturgeon had previously said that Britain leaving the EU could be one of the triggers for holding a second referendum.
Scotland voted to remain in the EU by a big margin, but Britain is now due to leave because the overall result was in favour of Brexit.
The UK Government says it is engaging the devolved administrations, including Scotland, in its plans for Brexit.
“If you think for one single second that I’m not serious about doing what it takes to protect Scotland’s interests, then think again,” she said, speaking rhetorically to Theresa May.
“If you can’t – or won’t – allow us to protect our interests within the UK, then Scotland will have the right to decide, afresh, if it wants to take a different path.”
The party leader’s comments come after she attacked the Government for plans to force businesses to list foreigners, which have since been dropped.
“Last week, we heard an intolerance towards those from other countries that has no place in a modern, multicultural, civilised society,” she told party delegates.
“It was a disgrace. It shames the Tory Party and all who speak for it.
“But make no mistake – the right wing of the Tory Party is now in the ascendancy and it is seeking to hijack the referendum result. Brexit has become Tory Brexit.
“They are using it as licence for the xenophobia that has long lain under the surface – but which is now in full view.
“They are holding it up as cover for a hard Brexit that they have no mandate for – but which they are determined to impose, regardless of the ruinous consequences.
“I suspect that many of those who voted to Leave now look at the actions and rhetoric of the Tories and think ‘that’s not what I voted for’.
“They may have voted to take back control – but I don’t imagine many of them are happy to have handed that control to Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox.
“They certainly didn’t vote to throw economic rationality out of the window. They didn’t vote to lower their own living standards or to sacrifice jobs and investment. They didn’t vote for our businesses to face tariffs or for holidaymakers to need visas. They didn’t vote for the scapegoating of foreigners.”
She pledged that SNP MPs in Westminster would vote against the Government’s “Great Repeal Bill” because Scotland voted to Remain.
Opposition parties said Ms Sturgeon should use her conference to abandon talk of a second Scottish independence referendum.
Conservative Scottish Secretary David Mundell admonished the Scottish Government for creating “divisive constitutional debates”.
“Constant talk of another independence referendum is creating uncertainty and damaging the Scottish economy at a time when our growth is lagging behind the UK as a whole.
“The people of Scotland spoke loudly and clearly in the result of the legal, fair and decisive referendum of 2014 and that should be respected, as the UK and Scottish Governments both committed to do in the Edinburgh Agreement.
“As we prepare to leave the EU, the First Minister should commit her Government to working constructively with the UK Government to seize the opportunities that will bring, not taking Scotland back to the divisive constitutional debates of the past.”
All recent polls show the SNP maintaining its dominance of Scottish politics, despite losing its majority in the Scottish Parliament at elections earlier this year.
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