Nicola Sturgeon hands Queen a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label

A wee dram to break the ice? Nicola Sturgeon hands Queen a £150 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky during awkward meeting on SAME DAY she lay out plans break up UK with Scots independence referendum

  • First Minister was received by Elizabeth II during an audience at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh 
  • Visit took place just hours after Ms Sturgeon had made the case for a second independence vote next year  
  • Both women smiled as Ms Sturgeon handed the monarch a £150 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky
  • Came as SNP forced to clarify Ms Sturgeon’s policy is for Scotland to keep monarchy in event of a split  
  • SNP leader accused of insulting the monarchy in 2020 after a ‘swipe’ at Wills and Kate’s visit to Scotland  

Nicola Sturgeon handed the Queen a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky during a meeting today – just hours after the SNP leader detailed her plans to hold a second Scottish independence referendum next year. 

The First Minister was received by Elizabeth II at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh as part of her traditional trip to Scotland for Holyrood Week – with many commentators noting the awkward timing of the audience. 

Nonetheless, both women smiled as Ms Sturgeon handed the 96-year-old monarch the £150 whisky bottle. The Queen is known to be a fan of scotch, although her favourite tipple is a Dubonnet and gin. 

It comes as Ms Sturgeon today claimed there was a stronger mandate for another independence referendum than there was for the 2016 Brexit vote. 

She plans to hold a new plebiscite in October next year, nine years after the supposedly ‘once-in-a-generation’ vote in which Scots decided to stay part of the UK, but faces a mountain to climb in terms of legitimacy. 

Ms Sturgeon has no power to call a binding referendum and Boris Johnson, who does, is unlikely to agree. Instead she wants the Supreme Court to make a ruling that could allow her to outflank the PM, something legal experts believe is unlikely. 

Meanwhile, the SNP was forced to clarify that Ms Sturgeon is planning for Scotland to remain a constitutional monarchy in the event of a split after she said a ‘debate’ was needed on the Royal Family. 

Asked a question about Prince Andrew, she said there was ‘a debate to be had about the longer term future of the monarchy’. 

Later, an SNP spokesman said she was referring to the size of the monarchy, and insisted the party was still planning to retain the monarchy after independence. 

Ms Sturgeon has endured a sometimes awkward relationship with the monarchy, including in 2020 when a trip to Scotland by William and Kate saw some Scots accuse them of breaking Covid rules. 

In response the First Minister told a briefing that her government had reminded the Palace of the strict Covid restrictions north of the border ahead of the tour, leading Tory MPs to accuse her of being ‘unsubtle’ and ‘rude’.

Nicola Sturgeon handed the Queen a £150 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky during an audience at Holyroodhouse today 

Both women smiled during today’s exchange at Holyroodhouse, which was the 96-year-old’s third public appearance in as many days

It comes as Ms Sturgeon today announced plans to hold a new plebiscite in October next year, nine years after the supposedly ‘once-in-a-generation’ vote in which Scots decided to stay part of the UK

Today, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, a former MSP at Holyrood, told Sky News the First Minister Ms Sturgeon was bringing up the prospect of a referendum in an attempt to deflect from her Government’s domestic record. 

‘She hasn’t actually done her job of delivering for the people of Scotland – better healthcare, better schools, better crime rates, better education and all things that are important to the people of Scotland,’ he said.

‘Instead she is desperate now to have a second referendum … they had the referendum, they lost the referendum.’

He added that ‘the problem for Nicola is that time is running out’ with support for the union growing in Scotland.

The last referendum in 2014 was branded ‘once in a generation’ by both sides – and resulted in a 55-54 margin for keeping the union.

Polls have been showing that there is little appetite for another contest, with a steady – if slim – majority against independence.

The First Minister claimed this morning there was a stronger mandate for a Scottish independence referendum than there ever was for Britain’s 2016 vote on whether to leave the EU

The YouGov research for The Times last month – which ignored ‘don’t knows’ – suggested that backing for the union has increased since March, when 53 per cent wanted to stay together

The Queen receives Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament Alison Johnstone during an audience at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

But Ms Sturgeon, claimed this morning there was a stronger mandate for a Scottish independence referendum than there ever was for Britain’s 2016 vote on whether to leave the EU. 

‘There is a stronger mandate for an independence referendum in the Scottish parliament than there ever was for a Brexit referendum in the UK Parliament,’ Sturgeon said.

‘A majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament support a referendum so if we had a democracy then that should be respected,’ she added. 

In a statement to Holyrood yesterday, the SNP leader said she wants to hold the ballot with or without permission from Westminster.

However, Ms Sturgeon admitted that she would face challenges about legitimacy if Boris Johnson – as expected – refuses to grant so-called ‘Section 30’ powers.

She said the Lord Advocate would be taking a case to the Supreme Court to decide whether a ‘consultative’ ballot is ‘indisputably lawful’ without the PM’s go-ahead.

Today, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, a former MSP at Holyrood, told Sky News the First Minister was trying to deflect from her Government’s domestic record.

But Ms Sturgeon seemed to concede that if the UK’s top court rules against her, she will not seek to go ahead. 

Instead, she suggested that the SNP will merely try to make the next general election a ‘de facto referendum’. 

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross described Miss Sturgeon’s statement as ‘a melodramatic, self-indulgent, irresponsible waste of time’ and pledged to boycott any vote. ‘We won’t take part in a pretend poll when there is real work to be done,’ he said.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said it was wrong to stir up divisive constitutional issues when the country was still recovering from the pandemic.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross immediately accused Ms Sturgeon of ‘taking her eye off the ball’ on by focusing on breaking up the UK rather than tackling the cost-of-living crisis

Earlier, speaking in Germany on the final day of the G7 summit, Mr Johnson desperately tried to avoid putting up a target for Ms Sturgeon to rail against.

He said: ‘Of course we’ll see what she has to say and look forward to that.

‘I think the important point to make is that we think the number one priority for the country is the economic pressures, the spikes in the cost of energy.

‘Our plan for a stronger economy certainly means that we think that we’re stronger working together but we have good relations with the Scottish Government.

‘We’ll see what she has to say.’

Ministers have insisted that ‘once in a generation’ means there should be no referendum for 25 years. ‘

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