Nicola Sturgeon told her party faithful today that she would be willing to have a discussion with the Prime Minister about the timing of a second referendum on independence.
There are also indications that despite the recent cross-border hostilities, Downing Street may be willing to engage in a dialogue to resolve the growing constitutional crisis.
The First Minister and SNP leader has already said that she agrees with Theresa May that “now is not the time” for another vote.
But she is also interpreting the Prime Minister’s comments as not ruling out putting the question to the people at some point.
Mrs May has insisted repeatedly that she values the union highly and has appealed to the SNP to call a halt to its independence campaign.
However, her advisers will tell her that such an appeal is a forlorn hope and that the stand-off is increasingly likely to weaken Mrs May’s negotiating hand with Europe if she cannot be trusted to deliver UK-wide promises, or be certain what sort of UK she is representing.
In her keynote speech to the SNP conference, Ms Sturgeon repeated her message that: “Scotland’s future must be Scotland’s choice.”
She said: “Despite our overwhelming vote for Remain, the Scottish Government accepted that Scotland, within the UK, would leave the EU – but that we should seek to retain our place in the single market.
“We proposed substantial new powers for the Scottish Parliament – short of independence – that would help protect Scotland’s interests in a post Brexit UK.
“But instead of meeting us half way or, frankly, any of the way, Westminster chose to dig its heels in.
“Our efforts at compromise with the Prime Minister met with a brick wall of intransigence.
“And that is a concern that should resonate far beyond Scotland.
“The Prime Minister’s attitude should worry all of us hoping that negotiations with Europe will not be a disaster…
…because – and let me put this bluntly – if she shows the same condescension and inflexibility, the same tin ear, to other EU countries as she has to Scotland then the Brexit process will hit the rocks.
“Of course, that’s the outcome that hard line Brexiteers are agitating for. But it would be in no-one’s interests.
“So as Article 50 is about to be triggered, let me say this to the Prime Minister. Stop putting the interests of the right wing of your own party ahead of the interests of the people of our country.”
Ms Sturgeon outlined what will happen in the coming days and made an offer to Downing Street.
“Next week, in line with the mandate secured at last May’s election, we will ask the Scottish Parliament to agree that the Scottish people should have the right to choose our own future,” she said.
“If a majority in the Scottish Parliament endorses that position, the Prime Minister should be clear about this – at that point a fair, legal, agreed referendum – on a timescale that will allow the people of Scotland an informed choice – ceases to be just my proposal, or that of the SNP. It becomes the will of the democratically elected Parliament of Scotland.
“To stand in defiance of it would be for the Prime Minister to shatter beyond repair any notion of the UK as a respectful partnership of equals.
“She has time to think again, and I hope she does. If her concern is timing then – within reason – I am happy to have that discussion.
“But she should be in no doubt. The will of our parliament must and will prevail.”
Call for federalism
Former Labour PM Gordon Brown (pictured above) today outlined a “third way”, offering a form of federalism for the UK.
In a speech in Kirkcaldy he set out a plan to devolve more powers to Scotland that he believes would satisfy most Scots.
He proposed the transfer of powers over environmental regulation, fisheries and agriculture as the UK leaves the European Union, as well as having the right to set VAT rates and sign international treaties.
He will also said that £800m currently spent by the EU should be repatriated to Scotland.
“The third option, a patriotic Scottish way and free from the absolutism of the SNP and the do-nothing-ism of the Tories, is now essential because post-Brexit realities make the status quo redundant and require us to break with the past,” he said.
“The status quo has been overtaken by events because unless powers now with the European Union are repatriated from Brussels to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the regions, Whitehall will have perpetrated one of the biggest power grabs by further centralising power.
“The patriotic way means that Scotland is not caught between a die-hard conservatism that denies the Scottish Parliament the powers it needs and a hard-line nationalism that throws away the resources we secure from being part of the union…
“Most of all, a new third option can unify our country and end the bitter and divisive yes-versus-no conflict that will continue to rip us apart.
“It is time to transcend the bitter division and extremism of an inflexible, die-hard conservatism at war with an intransigent and even more hardline nationalism.”
He will also propose to change the Bank of England to the Bank of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make clear that the “pound is for everyone.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “Gordon and I have been working closely together as Labour puts forward an alternative to the constitutional extremes offered by the SNP and the Tories.
“Our call for a reformed UK is about meeting the demand for change. One message from the independence and EU referendums was that people wanted more control over their lives. That’s why Labour’s plan for a People’s Constitutional Convention and a federal UK will transform where political and economic power will lie in our country.
“We know that together we are stronger when the nations of our United Kingdom work together rather than split apart.
“Scottish Labour will vote against a second referendum next week and the Labour Party I lead will never support leaving the UK.”
From yesterday’s Daily Business:
Robertson: Scottish people ‘will have their say’
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson sent a message of defiance to Downing Street, saying Scotland would get its second independence referendum.
He told the party conference in Aberdeen: “Let there be no doubt, Scotland will have its referendum and the people of this country will have their choice…..they will not be denied their say.
“Scotland’s referendum is going to happen, and no UK Prime Minister should dare to stand in the way of Scottish democracy.”
Speaking at the party’s spring conference, Mr Robertson opened the event in a climate of increased tension between the governments of Scotland and Westminster after the Prime Minister stated that “now is not the time” for a second poll.
Prime Minister Theresa May today again pledged to fight for the “precious, precious union” of the United Kingdom, unveiling what she called her Plan for Britain with a warning to Scotland not to pursue its independence plans.
“The coming negotiations with the EU will be vital for everyone in the United Kingdom … It is essential that we get the right deal, and that all of our efforts and energies as a country and focused on that outcome,” Mrs May told her party in Cardiff.
“We need to do so united, as one United Kingdom, all pulling together to get the best outcome,” she said, promising to ensure all the voices and interests in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are represented.
“I will always fight to strengthen and sustain this precious, precious Union.”
But Mr Robertson said: “At this conference we will show the trust we place in the people of Scotland.
“It is clear from the PM’s panicked response to the Scottish Government’s decision to rightly, give people in Scotland a choice over Scotland’s future, that the Tories are simply scared of the people’s choice.
“The Tories argument is not about process, it is about their desperate desire to prevent anyone having the chance to reject the hard right Brexit that they are so wedded to.
“The truth is: it should not be for either Theresa May or the Scottish Government to decide Scotland’s future, that choice belongs to the parliament and the people of Scotland and it is one this party will never shy away from.
“We cannot drift along for the next two years and hope for the best. We face the real prospect of right-wing Tory governments until at least 2030 and being dragged out of the EU and Single Market with all the damage to our economy and society that will cause.
“If the Prime Minister refuses to engage on the terms of a referendum before Brexit takes place then she is effectively trying to block the people of Scotland having a choice over their future. That would be a democratic outrage.
“If Scotland can be ignored on an issue as important as our membership of the EU and the single market, then it is clear that our voice and our interests can be ignored at any time and on any issue.
So when the terms of Brexit are known – and not before – we will give the people the choice over the direction Scotland should take – before it is too late to change course.
“Before people make that choice we will set out the challenges and opportunities of independence. In particular we will set out how to secure our relationship with Europe, build a stronger economy, a fairer society, and forge a genuine partnership of equals across these islands.
“In a week of total chaos for the U.K. Government, including a screeching embarrassing u-turn on Tory budget plans to attack the self-employed the contrast with the Scottish Government and our First Minister could not have been clearer.”
Former First Minister Alex Salmond said in a newspaper interview that Scotland could abandon a currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom if it gained independence.
Mr Salmond, who resigned after losing the 2014 independence referendum, said he was open to changing his view that the best option after independence was a currency union between Scotland and the remainder of the UK.
He ruled out joining the euro, but suggested that Scotland could introduce a new currency, either freely floated or pegged to the pound. Another option, he said, was to use sterling without any say in monetary policy while the new currency was introduced.
Mr Salmond said that Scotland would seek to remain in the European single market after a potential referendum in 2019, though it would have to leave the EU as part of the Brexit process.
The Prime Minister’s statement that “now is not the time” for a second independence referendum is bound to dominate discussion among the 2,500 delegates gathering in Aberdeen following First Minister and party leader Nicola Sturgeon’s call on Monday for another poll.
In Aberdeen, John Swinney, the deputy First Minister (right) said that Scotland is at “a hugely important crossroads for its future”.
“The SNP conference is meeting at a time when Scotland is approaching a hugely important crossroads – we didn’t ask to be here but we know that at stake is the kind of country we want to be,” he said.
“The contrast between the SNP Government and the Tory Westminster government could not be starker.
“We have made clear that before people make a choice on Scotland’s future we will set out the challenges and opportunities of independence.
“People should not be denied the right to choose and allow a hard Brexit to be imposed on Scotland against our will.
“Our conference will underline our party’s top priorities – education, the economy and our public services.
“The SNP is standing up for Scotland – will always stand up for Scotland – and will work every day to build a better country.”
Scottish Labour criticised Mr Swinney for failing in a radio interview to answer questions on the currency that an independent Scotland would use.
Scottish Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “The fact that John Swinney can’t even answer a basic question about what currency a separate Scotland would use says it all.
“The currency we use really matters. It’s about how much money we have to spend on schools and hospitals, what money wages and pensions will be paid in, and will determine how families pay the bills. The Nationalists want to drag Scotland out of the UK but haven’t even worked out the basics like currency.”