CORONAVIRUS must be “under control” before a Scottish independence referendum can be held, the deputy first minister has said.

John Swinney, speaking ahead of Nicola Sturgeon’s keynote speech at the SNP conference, said the virus must be “successfully suppressed” ahead of a another vote.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the timing will depend on how successfully the pandemic can be managed.

He said: "We'll know it [the pandemic] is over by the degree to which we have successfully suppressed the virus, and are able to operate without restrictions being in place – essentially, that we have managed to put in place sufficient protection for people and our society from the prevalence of the virus.

"Now, we're clearly not in that situation because we have particularly high case rates of the virus even though we have a very successful and effective vaccination programme.

"But we are optimistic that the more the vaccination programme continues, the more we take the measures that we are taking, we will find ourselves in a situation where we can see with justification that the Covid pandemic is under control, and we can then have a referendum."

Sturgeon is expected to make the democratic case for indyref2 in her conference speech. The First Minister has previously said she wants to hold another referendum by 2023, assuming the pandemic is under control. 

Swinney also said the rollout of vaccine certificates in Scotland will not be extended to cafes and restaurants under current plans.

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The Scottish Government is pressing ahead with a jag pass scheme for nightclubs and large events as Westminster abandons similar proposals.

Swinney explained: "I think that's a key critical point in relation to the civil liberties issue.

"There will be no question that vaccine certificates will be applicable to any public services whatsoever, under any circumstances.

"So what we're talking about is a scheme that would be across a limited number of sectors. Nightclub access and some larger gatherings would have to involve vaccine certification."

The Covid Recovery Secretary added that talks are under way with the affected sectors to put the scheme in place efficiently.

He said: "We're now going through a process of dialogue with a range of key affected sectors to make sure we can take the practical steps to implementation, which we want to put in place by October 1 to give us another measure to help us to deal with the challenges that the virus is posing to us."