Nicola Sturgeon handed the Queen a £150 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky during an audience at Holyroodhouse today
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Nicola Sturgeon today handed the Queen a £150 bottle of Johnnie Walker blended whisky as critics accused her of showing a ‘shameful lack of respect’ for the monarch after she called a second Scottish independence referendum during the 96-year-old’s visit to Edinburgh.

The First Minister was received by Her Majesty at the Palace of Holyroodhouse this afternoon, just 100 yards or so from the Scottish Parliament where, yesterday, she announced plans to hold Indyref2 on October 19 next year. The referendum would need a favourable Supreme Court ruling to go ahead, which is seen as unlikely.  

Tory MP for North West Durham, Richard Holden, told MailOnline: ‘Nicola Sturgeon is so obsessed with her own independence agenda that she simply doesn’t care about anything or anyone else. Today, she’s tried to use it to outshine her audience with the Queen’.

He added: ‘What Nicola Sturgeon should be concentrating on is turning around what she is responsible for in Scotland – the failing health system, education system that’s falling down the international league tables and the worst drug deaths in the Western world rather than banging on about independence to cover up for her failures’. 

Another critic tweeted: ‘Nicola Sturgeon has shown just how much she hates the English. Making an announcement about Indyref2 the same day the Queen is in Edinburgh. Shameful lack of respect’. 

This morning, before going to see the Queen, Ms Sturgeon went on TV to claim that the people of Scotland would be ‘a prisoner of a UK prime minister’ if they aren’t allowed to express their views on independence again – nine years after the supposedly ‘once-in-a-generation’ vote where Scots decided not to break up the UK.

Despite the tensions over the future of the Union, both women smiled as Ms Sturgeon handed the 96-year-old monarch the £150 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. The Queen is known to be a fan of scotch, although her favourite tipple is a Dubonnet and gin, which royal aides have said historically she drinks every single day before dinner.  Her Majesty was also given a new tartan blanket, which she thanked the First Minister for and told her it was ‘a lovely thing to have’.

Ms Sturgeon, who praised the Queen during the Platinum Jubilee as a ‘quite extraordinary individual’ but declined to swear an oath of loyalty to the monarch after returning to Holyrood this month, told MSPs on Tuesday that she intends to hold a ‘consultative’ re-run of the 2014 vote next year. 

The announcement came as a surprise to most – including apparently Downing Street and the Prime Minister, who is in Europe attending G7 and Nato meetings. And critics have insisted that Ms Sturgeon also timed it right in the middle of the Queen’s annual week in Edinburgh where its people and armed forces pay tribute to her role as head of state and head of the UK armed forces.

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

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

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

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

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 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

Sturgeon’s strained relationship with the Royal Family, from boycotting a visit by the Queen, ‘swiping’ at Wills and Kate and refusing to swear an oath of loyalty to the Queen

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 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 Scottish First Minister has long repeated the SNP’s policy of keeping the monarchy if the country votes for independence. 

But she has long been accused of republican sympathies and has endured a sometimes difficult relationship with the Royal Family. Key events include:  

1999 – 

After being first elected, Ms Sturgeon chooses to make her oath of allegiance in the Scottish Parliament to the sovereignty of the people, not the Monarch. 

2003 – 

She boycotts a visit by the Queen to the Scottish Parliament. 

 2014 – 

Sources suggest the Scottish government was preparing to refuse to contribute to the costs of operating the monarchy. Ms Sturgeon denies the story. 

December 2020 – 

Furious Tories slam Ms Sturgeon’s ‘swipe’ at Prince William and Kate Middleton after the couple were accused of breaking Covid rules during a whistle-stop tour to Scotland. 

Following criticism of the Cambridges, the First Minister said at a daily briefing that her government had reminded the Palace of the strict Covid restrictions north of the border ahead of the visit. 

One Tory MP slammed the comments as ‘unsubtle’ and ‘rude’, while another accused the SNP leader of being ‘petty’. 

June 2022 – 

In carefully phrased comments, SNP leader pays tribute to the Queen during her Jubilee but insists republicans ‘have the right to protest’ against the monarchy. 

Asked by the BBC if she was a monarchist, Ms Sturgeon replied: ‘I support the Queen and her successors remaining the head of state. That’s the policy of my party.’ 

After returning to Holyrood this month she opted to make a ‘solemn affirmation’ rather than swear an oath of loyalty to the Queen. 

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 taking a ‘swipe’ at the future king and queen and being ‘unsubtle’ and ‘rude’.

Travelling across the border at the time was permitted for work purposes and royal sources said that was exactly what the trip was, but Ms Sturgeon chose to warn them anyway.

The comments will have been hurtful  to William, who along with the other senior royals, has a deep love for Scotland. It was at Balmoral where he learned of the death of his mother Diana, in 1997 and was supported with Harry by his father and grandmother. And it was at St Andrews where he met and fell in love with Kate Middleton.

The SNP has also been 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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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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