The Scottish government has delayed its plans for a second referendum on independence after losing seats in the general election, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The first minister has come under sustained pressure from opposition parties in Scotland to drop plans for a second independence referendum after this month's general election saw the SNP lose 21 of the 56 MPs it returned to Westminster in 2015.
When announcing plans for a second referendum in March, Sturgeon said she would like it to take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 – but quietly dropped that timetable at the SNP manifesto launch in May.
Speaking at the Scottish parliament at Edinburgh on Tuesday afternoon, Sturgeon insisted Scotland should still have a choice over its future at "the end of the Brexit process" but said she would not introduce referendum bill to parliament until autumn 2018 at the earliest.
Sturgeon did not say when another referendum would happen, but it is likely the move will delay an independence referendum until after the UK leaves the EU – when the first minister said people in Scotland would have "greater clarity" on what Brexit will mean.
The first minister said the Scottish government will instead focus on making the case for the entire UK to remain in the European single market, and building the case for independence rather than pursuing a vote as urgently.
"We remain committed – strongly – to the principle of giving Scotland a choice at the end of this process," said Sturgeon. "But to reassure people that they will not be asked to make this choice now – or in the immediate future – but only at the end of the process when greater clarity has emerged, I am confirming today that the Scottish government will reset the plan I set out on March 13."
"We will not seek to introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately. We will, instead redouble our efforts and put our shoulder to the wheel in seeking to influence the Brexit talks in a way that reflects Scotland's interests."
The first minister went on to say that she will return to parliament when the Brexit negotiations near their conclusion – "likely to be around next autumn" – so she can "set out our judgment on the way forward, including our view on the precise timescale of offering people a choice over the country's future".
A senior SNP source told BuzzFeed News the move means that "focus can go back to the actual consequences of the actual referendum that did happen" now that the "clock had stopped ticking" on another independence vote.
Sturgeon's announcement fell short of the demands from the opposition parties to shelve plans for a referendum until after the next Scottish parliament elections in 2021, with the first minister insisting she still had a mandate for one.
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, said Sturgeon "appears to be in denial about her mistakes over this last year" and that the first minister was "leaking credibility and confidence in her leadership by the hour".
“Her response hasn’t been to reflect," said Davidson. "It’s been simply to lash out at the UK government at every opportunity and to sing the same old songs in the same old tune. She now claims to be putting the referendum to one side.
"She should just give the country some certainty and take it off the table for the rest of this parliament at least.”
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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