The SNP's two most senior figures have repeatedly refused to rule out the prospect of holding a referendum without Theresa May's consent on the first day of the party's spring conference in Aberdeen.
On Thursday the prime minister formally refused to give her consent to Nicola Sturgeon's demand that another independence referendum be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 – saying "now is not the time".
On Friday afternoon, in an interview with STV, Sturgeon repeatedly refused to rule out holding a referendum without the UK government's consent, and deputy leader Angus Robertson did the same in a later interview with BuzzFeed News.
The Scottish government doesn't currently hold the power to have a referendum, and therefore requires the agreement of the UK government over things such as timing, franchise, and the question before it can hold a legal vote.
After being pressed repeatedly over whether she would proceed with a referendum without such consent, the first minister told STV's political editor Bernard Ponsonby: "I will consider what options I have if I have to get to that point."
Robertson later told BuzzFeed News he would not rule out "potential eventualities", but insisted that May will eventually be forced to strike a deal with the Scottish government and not doing so would just be "delaying the inevitable".
Asked how he could square his belief that a referendum is "inevitable" with Theresa May's reluctance to hold one over the next few years, Robertson replied: "Undoubtedly the stakes are going up.
"But as the risk of her intransigence becomes clearer, I think she will have to conclude the consequences of standing in the way of a decision made by the Scottish parliament and the unhappiness of the Scottish people at her intransigence will ultimately lead to the end of the United Kingdom."
Asked again if he could rule out holding a non-consensual referendum, Robertson said: "I’m confident we will be able to secure a referendum agreement with the UK government, I can’t speak for colleagues in the media getting excited by all kinds of potential eventualities.
"Our plan is to secure a referendum with the agreement of the UK government because I think it’s inevitable there will be a referendum. Given the inevitability, they are going to have to agree at some stage."
In briefing with journalists at the conference, the first minister's advisers also repeatedly refused to rule out the prospect of a vote being held without the consent of the Westminster government.
Robertson went on to reject comparisons between Scotland and Catalonia, where the Spanish government has refused consent to hold a referendum on independence, saying the two situations are "very different".
"We need to find our own way through our challenges, and the UK government has already conceded the way in which people in Scotland can make decisions over their own future," he added.
Responding to the developments at the conference, the Scottish Conservatives' deputy leader, Jackson Carlaw, said the SNP's plans for a referendum were "descending into chaos" and described them as "nonsense Catalan castanets".
“The SNP’s only reason for existing is to rip Scotland out of the UK," said Carlaw. “That’s why the party refuses to rule out any means of achieving this, including a nonsense Catalan castanets consultative referendum.
“Such a process would make Scotland the laughing stock of the world. The 2014 referendum was legal and fair, but a wildcat version – as so many SNP members seem to want – would be anything but."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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