Nicola Sturgeon has delayed plans to hold another Scottish independence referendum, following the general election which saw the SNP lose 21 MPs.
Scotland’s first minister said today she would “reset” her plan for another vote on breaking up the United Kingdom until after Brexit.
Sturgeon had previously said she wanted a second independence referendum to be held between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019.
But in a statement to the Scottish Parliament, she said the SNP would no longer seek to introduce legislation for a referendum “immediately”.
The SNP leader said the mandate her government had to hold a referendum was “beyond doubt”, but many people wanted a “break from the pressure of making big political decisions”.
At the snap general election the number of SNP MPs dropped from 56 to 35. The Conservative Party secured 13 Scottish MPs, its best performance since 1983. Labour won seven and the Lib Dems won four.
In 2015, the three unionist parties which opposed independence at the first referendum held onto just one seat each.
Although the SNP remains the third biggest party in the Commons, Sturgeon emerged from the election in a far less strong position.
Her mentor, Alex Salmond, lost his seat to the Tories, as did the party’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson.
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, said Sturgeon was “in denial about her mistakes” and was “leaking credibility and confidence in her leadership by the hour”.
“None of the questions raised by Brexit are answered by ripping Scotland out of our own union of nations,” she said.
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.”
In March, when Sturgeon announced her plan for a referendum by Spring 2019, Theresa May said “now is not the time” for another vote.
The Scottish first minister told MSPs today she was committed to giving voters “a choice” at the end of the Brexit process despite her u-turn on the timing.
“I am therefore confirming today that, having listened and reflected, the Scottish government will reset the plan I set out on March 13th,” she said.
“Instead, we will - in good faith - redouble our efforts and put our shoulder to the wheel in seeking to influence the Brexit talks in a way that protects Scotland’s interests.”
She added: “We will seek to build maximum support around the proposals set out in the paper that we published in December - Scotland’s Place in Europe - to keep us in the single market, with substantial new powers for this parliament.
“We will do everything we can to influence the UK in that direction.
“And then at the end of this period of negotiation with the EU - likely to be around next autumn - when the terms of Brexit will be clearer, we will come back to parliament to set out our judgment on the best way forward at that time, including our view on the precise timescale for offering people a choice over the country’s future.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said Sturgeon should “trigger a vote in the Scottish Parliament to rule out another independence referendum for the entirety of this parliamentary term”.
“The people spoke loud and clear at the general election that they did not want another divisive independence referendum. She should listen,” he said.