The key questions and answers on Scotland's First Minister's plans for second independence referendum

Scotland's First Minister has announced she is putting plans for a second independence referendum on hold. Here are some key questions and answers on the issue.

Why hold a second independence referendum?

The SNP formed a minority Scottish Government in 2016 after stating in its manifesto that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is a "significant and material" change in circumstances, such as "Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will".

When the majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU against an overall UK majority to leave in last June's EU referendum, Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to draw up legislation for a fresh independence vote, noting it was "highly likely" one would take place in the next two years.

What happened next?

Ms Sturgeon said while another referendum was "on the table", she wanted to explore all options to "protect Scotland's place in Europe", which included drawing up proposals to keep Scotland in the European single market.

As the Prime Minister's deadline for triggering the Brexit process drew nearer, little progress was made in reaching agreement, with the UK Government rejecting any special deal for Scotland.

The First Minister beat Theresa May to the punch, announcing in March she would seek powers to hold a referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 just days before Article 50, the mechanism for leaving the EU, was invoked.

Why was a referendum opposed?

Mrs May famously stated that "now is not the time" for another referendum but the Tories - and other unionist parties - would be happier if one did not take place at all. They argue that the question of independence was settled in the first vote in 2014, which saw 55% of Scots vote to stay part of the UK.

Ms Sturgeon's bid for another vote was rejected by the UK Government despite having the backing of the majority of MSPs, thanks to the Scottish Greens.

Why has Ms Sturgeon changed her plans now?

The First Minister had been poised to update Holyrood on her next move in May but then the Prime Minister called the snap election for June 8.

The SNP lost 21 of the 56 seats it had won in 2015, with the Scottish Conservatives - who fought the election on their opposition to another referendum - seeing a surge in support.

Ms Sturgeon said proposals for another vote had been a factor in the result and promised to reflect on her plans. She returned to Holyrood on Tuesday to announce they would be put on hold until at least next autumn.

What will the First Minister do now?

With the minority Conservative government at Westminster relying on votes from the DUP, and pressure mounting over Mrs May's approach to Brexit, Ms Sturgeon has said she will "redouble" efforts to secure "the best deal for Scotland".

She has already called for a seat at the negotiating table and a "four-nation" approach, bringing in the devolved governments.

She will do so in the knowledge that having parked her referendum for now, she can return to it after Brexit, and before the end of the parliamentary term at Holyrood.

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