On a personal note, I thank you, Presiding Officer, Paul Grice, the staff and all my friends across the chamber for the messages of best wishes and support during my recent illness. You will be glad to know, Presiding Officer, that I was able to tweet from the ambulance that there would be no Airdrie and Shotts by-election. [
I have campaigned all my adult life for Scottish independence. I want to see a second referendum at the right time and in the right circumstances, so that it succeeds. As with the first referendum, the arrangements, including the timing, must be decided by the Scottish Parliament—not in Downing Street, Whitehall or Westminster.
In taking the decisions, this Parliament must adopt three basic principles. The first principle, on which there is, I think, universal agreement across the chamber, is that the referendum should be held only once we know the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU. The Brexit deal will inform the Scottish Government’s prospectus for the trading relationships between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK and the EU. That is all the more important because trading relationships are likely to be as important in deciding the outcome of indyref 2 as the currency was in deciding the result of indyref 1.
We should also not forget that there are, in effect, two Brexit deals to be done. One will cover the UK’s exit arrangements from the EU; the other will be on the successor trading relationships between the UK and EU. Although there is a statutory deadline for the former, there is not one for the latter. Therefore, it is possible that all will not be done and dusted by March 2019. Negotiations on a trade deal might—I hope that they do not—extend beyond that date. The Scottish Government has recognised that and built flexibility into its position.