The Scottish Government will publish a proposed timetable and question for a second independence referendum before parliament breaks for next year’s Holyrood election.
The First Minister said the SNP will then go into 2021’s vote seeking a “clear endorsement” from voters of “Scotland’s right to choose our own future”.
She was laying out her administration’s programme for government for the next year, in which she said it was “clear that suppressing Covid is our most immediate priority”.
But Nicola Sturgeon said that did not mean the Scottish Government will “simply hunker down and wait for the storm to pass”, outlining plans to boost jobs, invest in infrastructure and tackle climate change.
She also committed the government to the creation of a new national service to run social care in Scotland in the wake of the coronavirus crisis in care homes.
On indyref2, the programme for government document says that before the end of the parliamentary term in 2021, a draft bill will be published “setting out the terms of a future referendum clearly and unambiguously to the people of Scotland”.
Addressing MSPs on Tuesday, Sturgeon took aim at the UK Government over Brexit and the refusal to extend the transition period beyond this year.
The FM told Holyrood: “Covid has presented us with significant challenges, but these are being compounded unnecessarily by Brexit.
“The UK Government’s decision not to seek an extension to the transition period – despite the economic crisis caused by Covid – will cause avoidable harm to many Scottish businesses.”
She described it as “an act of self-sabotage which we do not understand”.
And she also urged the UK Government to extend its furlough scheme to support workers for another 12 months.
Sturgeon added that if she was unveiling the programme for government of an independent Scotland, she would be able to outline plans for an extension to the furlough scheme, borrow more money and implement a universal basic income.
The First Minister said: “If this was a programme for government in an independent Scotland, it wouldn’t have to contemplate the damage of Brexit.
“Instead it could set out even more far reaching plans
“That is why, before the end of this parliament, we will publish a draft Bill, setting out the proposed terms and timing of an independence referendum, as well as the proposed question that people will be asked in that referendum.”
But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross tweeted in response: “The First Minister just doesn’t get it.
“We need to take Scotland forward and recover from this crisis together, not go back to the divisions of the past.”
Concluding her statement, the First Minister drew parallels between the Second World War and the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said: “The crisis we face today is different – and in many ways less extreme.
“But it is, without doubt, the biggest challenge our generation has faced.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “This is a programme for government which prepares us for what may well be a difficult winter.
“But it also encourages us to lift our eyes, find hope in our hearts and plan for brighter days ahead.”