Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of trying to fudge her position on independence, as she said her supposed u-turn could mean a second referendum only two years later than she was planning anyway.
The Scottish First Minister announced she would “reset” the SNP’s referendum plans on Tuesday, after the party had geared up for one since last year’s Brexit vote but was badly diminished by the General Election that cost it 21 MPs.
She said there would not be a referendum “now, nor before there is sufficient clarity about the options”, as the Brexit negotiations progress over the next two years.
But Sturgeon later told the BBC that one was still “likely” before the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2021, meaning her reset is not the U-turn some had thought it was, given she was previously aiming for a referendum between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019.
Meanwhile, the SNP has launched a new campaign website, which some suggested was meant to revitalise the independence movement.
After Sturgeon made her statement to the Scottish Parliament, she told STV: “I will take decisions - I have a mandate for a referendum within this parliament.
“Brexit is going to come to a conclusion as far as we can tell in right now within this parliament. That choice, I think that common sense tells you, it is likely to be in this parliament.”
The unionist parties all called on her to ditch plans for a referendum in the current parliament altogether.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “Nicola Sturgeon claims she has heard the views of the people and that she’s reflected on the result of the General Election.
“And her incredulous conclusion is to double down and continue with her campaign for independence.
“But the truth is the threat of an unwanted second independence referendum is dead. And this didn’t happen because Nicola Sturgeon wanted it to; the people of Scotland have taken that decision for her.”
Responding in the Holyrood chamber, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said: “Most people don’t want this brought back anytime soon.
“Why doesn’t she give the country some certainty and just take it off the table for the rest of this parliament?”
Davidson later told Sky News: “She seems to have taken a timescale move of three to six months but nothing else.
“She still says if she doesn’t like Brexit, it’s coming right back and today the SNP managed to launch a campaign site to try to restart the Independence campaign.
“She’s saying one thing to one people, all those people who gave her a hammering at the ballot box at the General Election, took away half a million votes from her party, took away 21 seats because they don’t want another in referendum. She’s saying ‘OK I’ve reflected’.
“And then, o her own followers, she is giving a nod and wink and says ′it’s all right lads, one more heave and we can get there’.”
On Twitter, Davidson argued with SNP MSP Michael Russell, who said Sturgeon and the party were “getting on with the job as we always do in the best interests of Scotland”.
When Sturgeon made her announcement it was labelled as her “bottling” a second in some quarters.
Times writer Kenny Farquharson said Sturgeon deliberately chose the word “reset”because it was “vague and meaningless”.
BBC journalist Philip Sim had an apt metaphor for what Sturgeon had actually done.
Spectator and Times journalist Alex Massie said: