Nicola Sturgeon has said she is confident a second referendum on Scottish independence could be held next October if given the go ahead by the Supreme Court.
Scotland’s first minister has said plans are “ready to go” to legislate for another breakaway vote in just 12 months.
But critics argue she is “deluding herself” with most Scots, including many SNP supporters, “resolutely opposed” to a ballot on the issue next year.
Britian’s top court is set to hear arguments this week before ruling if Holyrood has the power to stage another vote without approval from the UK government led by Liz Truss.
In the 2014 referendum, which the British government approved, Scots rejected independence by 55% to 45%.
However, the Scottish National Party argues the Brexit vote two years later has changed the political landscape.
Ms Sturgeon has said that as voters backed pro-independence parties in elections for the Scottish Parliament last year, they had a mandate to bring forward a bill to hold a referendum on 19 October 2023.
Asked during an interview on the BBC whether she was confident that will happen, the Scottish leader said: “Yes, I am confident that can happen.
“Let’s wait and see what the court says. I am confident Scotland is going to become independent.”
Ms Sturgeon also said a defeat in the Supreme Court would mean the SNP would fight the next UK-wide election, due to be held in 2024, solely on a platform of whether Scotland should be independent, making it a “de facto” referendum.
But she pointed out this was a last resort.
Ms Sturgeon said: “That is not my preference.
“If the route by which it would be right to consider and decide this issue, which is a lawful constitutional referendum, is blocked… the choice is then simple.
“We put our case to people in an election or we give up on Scottish democracy and I want to be very clear today I will never, ever give up on Scottish democracy.”
Her comments were echoed on Sky News by Scotland’s constitution secretary Angus Robertson, who told the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “The electorate voted for a pro-independence majority in the (Scottish) Parliament.
“Either we live in a democracy or we don’t.
“The people have voted to have the right to choose and in a democracy, the people should be able to choose.
“They can vote yes, they can vote no, but surely they should have the right to choose.”
He added: “The fact that we’ve had to go to the Supreme Court, the fact that we’re having to invoke the possibility of using elections to yet again show that people want to choose on this country’s future is not where we need to be.
“I’d far rather the UK government just respected the Scottish electorate.
“Unfortunately, the Conservatives and now sadly also the Labour Party are perfectly happy to discard Scottish democracy and it’s not good enough.”
But Scottish Tory constitution spokesperson Donald Cameron said: “Nicola Sturgeon is deluding herself – and seeking to delude the Scottish people – when she says there is an appetite for another divisive referendum on her timescale.
“The polling evidence is clear and consistent – the majority of Scots, including many SNP voters, are resolutely opposed to the first minister’s self-serving push for a vote next year.”