SNP vows to hold independence referendum at end of Covid pandemic – 'Time is right'

Michael Russell said the bill will be published next week and look to take Scotland “forward positively” after the May elections. The Scottish Parliament will close on Wednesday, six weeks ahead of the Holyrood elections.

If it wins a majority, Nicola Sturgeon’s party has promised to hold a referendum on independence.

Boris Johnson has already ruled out allowing a second vote – saying the 2014 referendum settled the issue “for a generation”.

But Ms Sturgeon could hold an unofficial poll regardless.

Recent polls suggest their chances of winning a majority at the Scottish elections on May 6 currently stand on a knife-edge.

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Commenting on the referendum bill, Mr Russell told the BBC: “I want to point to the record of the government, which I think is very good.

“I want to talk about the ability of those who are coming forward, now I’m standing down others are coming in, and I want to talk about the vision we have of independence.

“This week we will publish our referendum bill. I want to talk about those positive things so Scotland needs to go forward positively.

“Nevertheless, what we’ve been hearing from others is an attempt to undermine the Scottish Parliament which we know has been happening over the last three or four years from the Tory Government, but it’s turbocharged now and it’s being turbocharged by the Scottish Tories and that is really sad.”

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Asked for further details, Mr Russell said: “It’s going to say that we will hold a referendum when the time is right to hold it and that will be at the conclusion of the pandemic.

“Nobody is suggesting anything else, and again that’s been incredibly misrepresented.

“Again, it’s going to say something incredibly normal, which is that people should have the right to decide their own future. That’s how the world works.”

He has previously stressed that the SNP will aim to put the bill to parliament before it goes to recess for the elections in six weeks’ time.

The Constitution Secretary also lashed out at the Scottish Tories for highlighting the SNP’s shortcomings.

He said the last few weeks in Holyrood had been “really horrible” as Conservative MSPs had shown a “determination to damage not just the SNP but actually to damage the Scottish Parliament”.

Mr Russell said this came from the fact that the Tories are “absolutely hostile to the idea of the Scottish Parliament having any power or having any discretion”.

Previously Scottish Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said he was “really worried about the state of the Scottish parliament”.

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