Nicola Sturgeon rules out indyref in 2017

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Sturgeon was speaking during a visit to Midlothian Community Hospital in Bonnyrigg

Scotland's first minister has explicitly ruled out holding a second referendum on independence this year.

The Scottish government has already drafted legislation for a referendum after Nicola Sturgeon said another ballot was highly likely in the wake of the UK voting to leave the EU.

But Ms Sturgeon told STV News that any referendum would not been held in 2017.

Her predecessor, Alex Salmond, has predicted a vote on independence will be held in the autumn of next year.

Ms Sturgeon said: "There is not going to be an independence referendum in 2017, I don't think there is anybody who thinks that is the case."

She has previously said a vote on independence will be held if the Scottish government concludes it is the only way to protect Scotland's place in Europe.

Ms Sturgeon has urged the UK government to negotiate a so-called soft Brexit and retain its membership of the single market.

Failing that, she wants a special arrangement to allow Scotland to stay in the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves.

The first minister's latest comments regarding the timing of a second referendum follow her insistence at the weekend that she is not bluffing on calling a re-run of the 2014 ballot if Scotland's position is ignored.

But she has also indicated that a soft Brexit could take the issue off the table in the short-term.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The consultation on the Scottish government's draft referendum bill closes on Wednesday

Ms Sturgeon told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "We have to ask ourselves in Scotland are we happy to have the direction of our country, the kind of country we want to be, determined by a right-wing Conservative government perhaps for the next 20 years, or do we want to take control of our own future?"

"That's the case that in those circumstances, I think, it would be right for Scotland to have the opportunity to decide."

Asked if she was looking at a referendum "much quicker" than in five or 10 years' time if there was a hard Brexit, she said: "I would think, yes. But let me not get away from this point, I'm putting to Theresa May a compromise solution."

'Constitutional navel-gazing'

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said ruling out an independence referendum this year was an "empty gesture" by Ms Sturgeon.

Accusing the first minister of "leaving Scotland in limbo", Ms Davidson added: "If she's serious about allowing Scotland to move on from constitutional navel-gazing, she should ditch her draft referendum bill immediately."

Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said: "While it is welcome that Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out another independence referendum in 2017, this doesn't come close to ending the uncertainty.

"The first minister should rule out forcing another independence referendum on the people of Scotland altogether, not just for the next twelve months."

But the Scottish Greens welcomed the Scottish government' commitment to keeping a second referendum on the table.

Co-convenor Patrick Harvie said: "This cannot be a quiet time ahead for supporters of independence; although the Brexit negotiations will take two years, work must begin now to build support and strengthen our case."