Nicola Sturgeon to warn PM against blocking second independence vote
Nicola Sturgeon is to warn the Prime Minister she will "shatter beyond repair" the notion that the UK is a partnership of equals if she turns down a request from the Scottish Parliament to hold a second independence referendum.
MSPs are expected to back the First Minister's call for a Section 30 order to be granted when Holyrood votes on the issue on Wednesday.
That would then see the Scottish Parliament formally request that Westminster grants it the authority to hold a legally binding referendum.
Theresa May has already said the time is not right for another ballot on independence, saying such a vote would be "bad" for both the UK and Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon will tell the SNP spring conference in Aberdeen that if the vote is passed next week, the demand for another independence ballot will become "the will of the democratically-elected Parliament of Scotland".
She will say: "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."
The First Minister shocked the UK Government with her announcement on Monday that she wants a second independence referendum to be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.
With the UK having voted to leave the European Union in 2016 and Scotland voting to stay part of the bloc, she will insist the future "looks very different" than it did in 2014 when Scotland said No to independence.
Closing the SNP conference, Ms Sturgeon will say: "We know change is coming. The EU referendum has made sure of that. The only question is what kind of change."
She will insist Scots are "not powerless" and can "still decide which path we take".
Ms Sturgeon will say: "Whatever our different opinions on independence, we can all unite around this simple principle - Scotland's future must be Scotland's choice."
The SNP manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood election set out the prospect of a second independence referendum if there was a "material change in circumstances" in the UK, such as Scotland being removed from the EU "against its wishes".
The First Minister will say: "Next week... we will ask the Scottish Parliament to agree that the Scottish people should have the right to choose our own future.
"We will ask Parliament to agree that this choice should be exercised at a time when we know the terms of Brexit but before it is too late to take a different path.
"And we will ask Parliament's permission to seek the legal authority that will allow the people of Scotland to have that choice.
"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."
She will tell the Prime Minister: "If her concern is timing then - within reason - I am happy to have that discussion."
Mrs May said on Friday: "It is now clear that using Brexit as the pretext to engineer a second independence referendum has been the SNP's sole objective ever since last June.
"The fact that more Scottish voters backed Scotland staying in the UK in 2014 than supported the UK staying in the EU in 2016, and that almost half a million independence supporters actually backed Brexit last year, seems to count for nothing."
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: "Nicola Sturgeon said as late as Thursday that a referendum after April 2019 would be 'too late'. Now she has changed her mind and appears to be trying to engage in some kind of horse-trading with the UK Government.
"The future of Scotland is not a game. It is time for the First Minister to act responsibly over our future."