A draft bill “giving Scotland the ability to reconsider the question of independence” before the UK leaves the EU has been published “for consultation” by the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government said that having the bill available will allow all options to be available to the Scottish Parliament “to protect Scotland’s continuing relationship with Europe.”
Scotland voted in favour of remaining in the EU by 62% to 38% — but the UK voted to leave the EU by 51.9% to 48.1%. All 32 council areas in Scotland returned majorities to remain in the EU.
Constitution Secretary Derek Mackay said: “We are now publishing the bill for consultation so that it is ready for introduction should the Scottish Government decide that seeking the views of the Scottish people on independence is the best or only way to protect Scotland’s interests in the wake of the EU referendum.
“In stark contrast with the UK Government, we have a clear plan of action.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We will continue to work UK wide to seek to avert a hard Brexit and we will also bring forward proposals that seek to protect our place in the single market, even if the rest of the UK leaves.
“However, if we find that our interests cannot be properly or fully protected within a UK context then independence must be one of the options open to us and the Scottish people must have the right to consider it.
“Any decision on holding a referendum, including the timing of it, would be for the Scottish Parliament to take having considered all the options for Scotland’s future relationship with the EU and the associated impact of being forced to leave against our will.”