Monday’s announcement certainly seems to have caught the Tory government flat-footed – but that just shows how badly out of touch they are with the mood in Scotland.
Last summer I welcomed Theresa May’s assurance that she’d seek agreement with the devolved administrations on a UK-wide approach before triggering Article 50.
But nine months on from the Brexit vote, the language of partnership is gone.
It’s become clear that the Tories are intent on pursuing a hard Brexit – no matter the consequences for jobs, the economy and livelihoods.
And no matter what the people of Scotland think.
The people of England and Wales voted Leave – and I fully respect that. But nothing we are proposing will prevent them from leaving the EU.
People in Scotland voted by a 24-point margin to Remain – and our voice counts too.
At times like these, it’s more important than ever to have a clear plan for the way ahead – to try, as far as is possible, to be in control of events and not just at the mercy of them.
We believe that you, the people of Scotland, should have a choice about our future.
With the approval of the Scottish Parliament, we’ll open discussions with Westminster about holding a referendum – giving you a choice between the hard Brexit, or to become an independent country.
For the Tories to try and block this referendum would be completely and utterly untenable and indefensible – and privately they know this.
At last year’s election, the SNP won the highest constituency vote share of any party in the history of the Scottish Parliament.
Our manifesto stated “The Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum…if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out the EU against our will.”
Well, that is exactly the situation we’re now in.
It would also be untenable for the Tories to try and rig the timing of the referendum.
If the Tories’ argument is that another referendum adds to the uncertainty caused by Brexit, then delaying it beyond Brexit would only add to the uncertainty.
The UK Government conceded that the last referendum must be ‘made in Scotland’, and they must honour that principle again – there should be no strings attached, no blocking mechanisms applied and no Downing Street diktat.
Some have said Brexit uncertainty means that voters will be ‘voting blind’ – that they won’t have the right information to make an informed choice.
But here’s the key point: we’re not proposing that the referendum be held until Autumn 2018 at the earliest.
It is between then and Spring 2019 that the shape of the UK’s Brexit deal will have become clear.
So there will be clarity about what the terms of Brexit will look like – but also clarity about independence.
That is therefore the right time to choose the future of Scotland.
And we trust you – the people of Scotland – to make that choice.
This article originally appeared in the Scottish Sun.