Nicola Sturgeon has warned Theresa May that a referendum on Scottish independence is inevitable, just days after the prime minister said she would block a vote on the country's future before the UK leaves the EU.
Closing the SNP's spring conference in Aberdeen on Saturday afternoon, the first minister was defiant and warned May that blocking an independence referendum would "shatter beyond repair" the union between Scotland and the UK.
A dramatic week in Scottish politics began on Monday morning when Sturgeon announced she would be seeking an independence referendum between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019.
On Thursday, May, backed by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, said "now is not the time" for such a vote and insisted no vote would happen before Brexit and before it was the clear will of the majority of people in Scotland.
The Scottish government does not hold the power to hold a referendum, so a vote requires the agreement of the UK government on things such as the question, franchise, and timing to be legal.
In a speech aimed at Scottish voters sceptical of independence, Sturgeon said: "There will be an independence referendum. But I know that for every one of us who's full of excitement and anticipation, there will be someone else feeling nervous and anxious, perhaps even resentful.
"In the last few years it has been one big decision after another. You have been bombarded with statistics, claims, and counterclaims. You might have had heated discussion with friends and family.
"Even though you may feel – like we do – that 2014 was a positive and vibrant exercise of democracy, you might not relish going through it all over again. I understand that, so I want you to know that I did not reach the decision lightly."
The first minister went on to directly warn the prime minister that she would live to regret blocking a vote on independence, but didn't clear up confusion from Friday at the conference about whether she'd pursue a referendum without May's consent.
Next week the Scottish parliament will almost certainly give Sturgeon permission to open discussions with the UK government to organise a second referendum, although the UK government will refuse to enter such discussions.
"If a majority in the Scottish parliament endorses that position, the prime minister should be clear about this," said Sturgeon. "At that point a fair, legal, and agreed referendum – on a timescale that will allow Scotland an informed choice – ceases to be just my proposal, or that of the SNP.
"It becomes the will of the democratically elected parliament of Scotland. To stand in defiance of that would be for the prime minister to shatter beyond repair any notion of the UK as a respectful partnership of equals."
Although the tone of the speech was mainly one of defiance, the first minister did concede that she would be willing to have a "discussion" with the prime minister about the timing of a referendum if that was the main issue.
However, an adviser for Sturgeon told BuzzFeed News that there currently are no plans in the diary for a discussion between the prime minister and first minister.
"Let the prime minister be in no doubt," Sturgeon went on. "The will of our parliament must and will prevail."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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