Nicola Sturgeon yesterday demanded Holyrood is given permanent powers to hold referendums as she made her formal request for a second independence vote.
The first minister sent a letter to Boris Johnson seeking the power to hold indyref2 as she published draft legislation proposing to transfer control over such votes from Westminster to Holyrood.
At a press conference in Bute House, Ms Sturgeon launched a 38-page document which she said made the democratic case for another referendum.
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw claimed Ms Sturgeon was trying to “bend the rules” to trap Scotland in a “neverendum”.
Titled “Scotland’s Right to Choose, Putting Scotland’s Future in Scotland’s Hands”, the document argues that it is for the “people of Scotland alone” to decide the country’s future.
It also includes details of legislation designed to alter the 1998 Scotland Act to make future votes on leaving the Union a matter for Holyrood rather than Westminster on a permanent basis.
Ms Sturgeon said: “If self-determination is something that can only be exercised once and people cannot exercise it again when circumstances change that is by definition not democracy.”
When asked if she would hold a third referendum if Scotland voted “No” in a second one, Ms Sturgeon said she thought people would vote for independence.
But while she claimed not to advocate for a third vote, she did not believe a prime minister, or first minister, could “permanently end the right of self-determination”.
Ms Sturgeon said her preference was for the powers to be transferred permanently.
But said she was prepared to discuss with UK ministers having a “time-limited” referendum power, as was the case in 2014.
The SNP leader admitted the UK Government would deliver a “flat no” on her demand.
But she added: “Everybody in Scotland knows, the dogs on the street know, there’s going to be an independence referendum, because you cannot stand in the way of the right of the Scottish people to choose their own future.
“I think the decision for the Tories is do they willingly and in a reasonable fashion … accept that or do they seek to block that?
“Which frankly makes my job easier, in convincing people that the right future for Scotland is to be independent.”
The SNP leader argued that winning 47 of 59 Scottish seats in last week’s General Election had reinforced the Scottish Government’s clear democratic mandate” for another vote, while the UK’s exit from Europe provided the “material change” to justify indyref2.
The document was published on the same day that SNP and Green MSPs united at Holyrood to get the government’s Referendum Bill over its final parliamentary hurdle.
But Mr Carlaw said Scotland had voted “No” in 2014 when both sides had agreed it would be a once in a generation decision regardless of the outcome.
“Ever since then Nicola Sturgeon has tried to bend the rules and this latest stunt is another example of that,” the Scottish Tory leader said.
“Now, more than ever, Scotland needs a government that cares about public services, jobs and the economy.
“Instead, it’s got an SNP first minister who’s only serious about breaking up the country.
“Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear again if she doesn’t win indyref2, it’ll be straight onto indyref3 and indyref4.
“She wants to trap Scotland in a neverendum when most people simply want to move on.”