Nicola Sturgeon has announced she is putting plans for a second independence referendum on hold.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government would not introduce legislation for another vote “immediately”.

She had previously called for another referendum to be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, but she has been reflecting on her options since the SNP lost 21 seats in the General Election earlier this month.

Ms Sturgeon said she still wanted to give people a choice at the end of the Brexit process when “clarity has emerged” about how leaving the EU will impact Scotland and the UK.

However, plans for a referendum will not be revisited until at least autumn next year, when she will set out her view on the way forward, including “the precise timescale for offering people a choice over the country’s future”.

In the meantime, she said she would “redouble” her efforts to secure the best possible Brexit deal for Scotland.

Unionist opposition leaders said the First Minister had not gone far enough.

Nicola Sturgeon (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government “remains committed strongly” to giving Scotland a choice (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Sturgeon had originally argued another independence vote was necessary to give Scots – who voted to stay in the European Union in June 2016 – an alternative to the “hard Brexit” being pursued by the Tories.

“It remains my view, and indeed the position of this government, that at the end of the Brexit process, the people of Scotland should have a choice about our future direction as a country,” she said.

“Indeed, the implications of Brexit are so potentially far-reaching that as they become clearer, I think people will increasingly demand that choice.”

Ms Sturgeon addresses MSPs at Holyrood (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Ms Sturgeon addresses MSPs at Holyrood (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The proposal for a referendum was included in the SNP’s manifesto for last year’s Holyrood election while the majority of MSPs backed it in a vote earlier this year.

She added: “There is no doubt that the Scottish Government has a mandate to offer the people of Scotland that choice within this term of Parliament.

“The mandate we have is beyond doubt, but deciding exactly how and when to exercise it is a matter of judgment, and it is a judgment that must be made in the interests of the country as a whole.

“That is what I have been thinking about.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Ruth Davidson responds to Nicola Sturgeon (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson called on Ms Sturgeon to “give the country some certainty” by taking the Referendum Bill off the table for the rest of this parliament.

She said: “I’m afraid to say that that statement will fail to give an assurance to those people that this First Minister is listening to them.”

Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said: “If the First Minister does not introduce a referendum bill until after autumn next year, how long will it be after we’ve been dragged out of Europe without having consented to it before the people of Scotland are even entitled to make their choice?”