The SNP government has confirmed there will be no second independence referendum this year as efforts are focused on tackling the coronavirus crisis.
In a letter to the UK Government, constitution secretary Mike Russell said ministers had halted work on the plans as a result of the pandemic.
He said: “Because of this crisis, the Scottish Government has paused work on preparing for an independence referendum this year.”
He added that plans to ask the Electoral Commission to test a possible referendum question had also been shelved “until public health circumstances permit such activity (while also urging the commission to reject the UK Government’s objections to testing”.
The MSP said the move will allow the Scottish Government to “focus all available resource on current and future demands in what is an unprecedented set of circumstances”.
Mr Russell is also calling for the Government to pause EU/UK negotiations for at least six months.
He stated: “It would seem impossible for business and others to cope with the enormous challenge of coronavirus while at the same time preparing for a completely new relationship with the EU in nine months’ time.”
In the letter to MP Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the MSP added: “The UK and the Scottish governments have worked closely together during this unprecedented time to tackle the crisis and I look forward to this continuing over the coming months.”
In response, Scottish Conservative shadow constitution secretary Murdo Fraser said: “This is very welcome news and will come as a relief to workers and businesses alike.
“Since the scale of this outbreak became clear, it’s been necessary for all governments and political parties to work together.
“This announcement from Mike Russell is very much in keeping with that spirit.
“Now we can really dedicate all our efforts to enduring this crisis, supporting those who will be worst hit, and ensure we can come out the other side looking forward to a bright future.”
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