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24 September 2016, 10:47
Nicola Sturgeon could call a second Scottish independence referendum in the autumn of 2017, with a vote on the future of the UK then held in May or June of 2018, the former chief executive of the Yes Scotland campaign has said.
Blair Jenkins said he did not believe the First Minister would call for a second vote on independence until after Theresa May has commenced formal procedures for the UK to leave the European Union.
He predicted a referendum could be a called about a year from now, after the Prime Minister has triggered Article 50 and a "broad outline'' of the Brexit deal has emerged.
Mr Jenkins said in those circumstances he would expect Scots to get a second chance to vote on independence in May or June the following year.
He told the i newspaper: "Nicola Sturgeon couldn't call a referendum until after Article 50 has been triggered.
"You couldn't call a referendum without having some idea of what Scotland's position will be in relation to the EU.
"I would have thought that if Article 50 was triggered by the UK in the first quarter of next year, the broad outline of the Brexit deal is likely to be apparent by the autumn.
"That would look like the earliest time at which the First Minister is likely to announce a second referendum. I imagine you'd then be looking at May or June 2018 as the earliest possible date.''
Former SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond has already said he expects another ballot to be held in ''roughly two years' time'' following the result of the European referendum - which saw the UK as a whole vote to leave the EU, even though nearly two thirds of Scots chose to remain.
But Kenny MacAskill, who was justice secretary in Mr Salmond's cabinet, has warned warned against a ''headlong rush'' to a second independence referendum, urging Ms Sturgeon to instead ''await the optimum time'' for a fresh vote.
He said this was because if Scots again voted to stay part of the UK, as they did in 2014, ''glorious defeat would put the dream back catastrophically'' for independence supporters.
An SNP spokesman said: "The First Minister has repeatedly made clear that the Scottish Government is exploring all possible avenues to protect Scotland's place in Europe, in line with the overwhelming vote to remain - and those options must include independence if it becomes clear it is the best or only way of doing so.''