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Holyrood delays vote on independence ballot after Westminster terror attack

A Holyrood vote expected to back Nicola Sturgeon's calls for a second Scottish independence referendum has been put on hold following the terror attack in Westminster.

The Scottish Parliament suspended business in the wake of the incident outside the UK Houses of Parliament, which resulted in the deaths of five people, including an unarmed police officer.

MSPs had been due to vote on whether the Scottish Government should seek discussions with the Conservative administration at Westminster on the details of a section 30 order - the legal mechanism that would allow a second independence ballot to be held.

The Holyrood debate and vote will now take place at another time, with parliament bosses due to meet on Thursday morning to discuss the rescheduling issue.

Security at the Scottish Parliament has been heightened as a precaution, with officials stressing there is no specific threat to the Parliament or Scotland.

Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said it would not have been appropriate for the referendum debate to continue, given the circumstances.

He said in a statement: "Members of all parties represented in this Parliament will want to join me in expressing our heartfelt sympathy for all those affected by the tragic events at Westminster.

"As the true seriousness of the incident emerged, and as an expression of our support for our sister Parliament, parliamentary business at Holyrood was suspended this afternoon for the remainder of the day.

"No matter how significant our debate might be, to have continued further would not have been appropriate. It was increasingly apparent from the chair as reports emerged that the thoughts and concerns of members lay elsewhere.

"While there is no intelligence to suggest a specific threat to Scotland, Edinburgh or Holyrood, security at the Scottish Parliament has been heightened with immediate effect as a precautionary measure."

Parliamentary business will proceed on Thursday and he will convene a meeting of business managers in the morning to consider the rescheduling of the debate.

Mr Macintosh took the decision to suspend business amid calls from some members for the debate to be stopped out of respect.

The Presiding Officer also acknowledged that the incident in London had affected MSPs' contributions to the debate.

The decision to suspend was welcomed by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who tweeted: "Very pleased that sense has won the day and Holyrood has been suspended until we have a better understanding of what is going on in WM."

Some MSPs had earlier walked out of the debate, with Conservative MSP Fin Carson tweeting: "I have left chamber. I can't understand how this debate can go on."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scottish ministers have been liaising with Police Scotland and that officials have held a Scottish Government resilience (SGoRR) meeting with the force "to ensure that any potential implications for Scotland are considered".

"My thoughts are with everyone caught up in the dreadful incident at Westminster today, including the emergency services who responded bravely to ensure the safety of the many people nearby," she said.

"We have been in regular dialogue with the Parliament and I fully support the decision of the Presiding Officer to suspend proceedings this afternoon. It should be made clear, however, that this was not because of any specific threat to the parliament or to Scotland.

"We are liaising with our counterparts in the UK Government and the Scottish Government stands ready to support in any way we can."

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