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Nicola Sturgeon rattled as she refuses to answer independence probe after Blackford demand

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Nicola Sturgeon refused to comment on her plans for a second referendum on Scottish independence despite previously saying she would be setting out plans for it next year. ITV’s Peter Macmahon asked: “It’s pretty clear that Scotland will be dealing with Covid, there will be a backlog in the NHS that has to be dealt with. Hopefully the rolling out of the vaccine and some severe economic consequences also to deal with. Is it also your policy as articulated by your Westminster party leader Ian Blackford that next year an independence referendum should take place?”

Speaking at the daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think my views on independence are well known.

“This is not the forum to go into them in detail.

“When we get to the point where we’re setting out plans and manifesto for the election, I will set out my thoughts on the timing of that.

“But I’m not getting any further into that today, this is a Covid briefing.”

Mr Machon added: “With respect, your Westminster leader has raised this.”

The First Minister continued: “I don’t think it should come as any surprise to anybody that people in the SNP want to think that there will be an independence referendum sooner rather than later.

“That is probably of all of us.”

Mr Blackford said the SNP “must” prepare for a second referendum on Scottish independence to take place in 2021.

He said the SNP would have a platform to hold indyref2 “quickly” if they won the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

In an interview with the Sunday National newspaper, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said the party should focus on the Holyrood vote first.

He said: “We need to demonstrably show that the people of Scotland are determined that they will have their say and in the first case, we have to win this election for the people of Scotland.

“To be able to be respectful to those who are not currently with us that we’re appealing to join us; about that denial of democracy that is currently taking place and to affirm that it is the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future; and come what may, we will prevail.

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“That referendum will take place and we need to plan that that referendum must take place in 2021.”

He said the coronavirus crisis had led to plans for another referendum being delayed, saying: “Covid has come along and the Scottish Government in particular, has had to take its responsibilities of stewarding the country through this crisis.

“So we’ve had to, from a tactical point of view, put off holding a referendum in 2020 and I apologise that that was the case.”

The party’s Westminster leader said the SNP would have a platform to hold indyref2 “quickly” when the crisis is over and they secured a “victory at Holyrood”.

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