Nicola Sturgeon is to set out her “next steps” towards holding a new referendum on Scottish independence, on the day the UK formally leaves the EU.
The Scottish first minister says she wants to hold indyref2 later this year, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already rejected her request,
Ms Sturgeon has previously said she will not hold an unofficial referendum similar to the one in Catalonia.
She will, however, set out plans to step up the campaign for independence.
Ms Sturgeon will address an audience of SNP activists in Edinburgh at about 09:30, with the party saying she will set out “the next steps on Scotland’s journey to independence”.
The event comes just hours before the whole of the UK leaves the EU at 23:00, despite Scottish voters backing Remain by 62% to 38% in the EU referendum.
Ms Sturgeon is due to say: “Tonight Scotland will be taken out of the European Union against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland.
“Nothing could more starkly demonstrate how our nation’s needs are no longer served by a broken, discredited Westminster union.
“But there is the prospect of a brighter, better future as an equal, independent European nation.”
What might Ms Sturgeon announce?
In previous updates on the campaign for independence, the SNP leader has announced votes in parliament, legislation, two requests for transfer of powers, a “growth commission” of economic arguments, a social justice commission, a national survey, a citizens’ assembly, an attempt at cross-party talks on the constitution, and a series of doorstep campaigns.
What is left to announce, her supporters wonder, other than setting the date for a referendum?
For some more vocal elements, nothing short of that will be enough – and the sooner the better. But Ms Sturgeon is loathe to press ahead without an agreement because she needs the vote to be internationally recognised if, as she hopes, an independent Scotland were to someday rejoin the EU.
So today may ultimately be more about politics than process. The first minister has to strike a difficult balance: to gee up her troops and convey real optimism and confidence that the goal is firmly in sight – while underlining that there is still a great deal of work to be done over the coming months and possibly years.
All of that while also sending a message to Boris Johnson that his repeated refusals won’t hold up forever – even if the issue does ultimately spill over into the Holyrood elections in 2021.
Ms Sturgeon argues that there is a “cast-iron democratic mandate” for an independence referendum given the SNP’s electoral success in recent years and the country’s opposition to Brexit.
She formally requested a transfer of powers from Westminster to ensure the legality of a referendum after her party won 48 of Scotland’s 59 seats in December’s general election.
But this was rejected by the prime minister, who said the 2014 referendum – when Scottish voters rejected independence by 55% to 45% – was a “once in a generation” event.
Ms Sturgeon has predicted that the UK government’s stance is “unsustainable and self-defeating”, and will only increase support for independence.
On Wednesday, SNP and Green MSPs united at Holyrood to pass a motion at saying a referendum should be held “on a date and in a manner determined by the Scottish Parliament”.
They also voted to keep the European flag flying outside the parliament beyond Brexit “as a practical demonstration of regret”.
And on Thursday a YouGov poll suggested that a narrow majority of Scots may now back independence – with 51% backing Yes to 49% No, excluding don’t knows.
However the survey also found 56% of respondents were opposed to having a referendum this year 2020 – with 34% in favour.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson is to make an address of his own shortly before the Brexit deadline, when he will speak of “the dawn of a new era” and national unity.
The prime minister will say: “Our job as the government – my job – is to bring this country together and take us forward.
“And the most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning. This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act.”