Holyrood 2016: SNP's Sturgeon expects second indyref vote
Nicola Sturgeon has said she expects a second Scottish independence referendum to be held while she is first minister.
The SNP leader said the prospect of such a vote during her premiership was now "more likely than not".
Scottish Labour branded her comments "arrogant" while the Lib Dems said another independence referendum was "the last thing Scotland needs".
The Scottish Conservatives accused the SNP of failing to respect the outcome of the first vote.
With just days to go until the Holyrood election, Ms Sturgeon was asked by the Sunday Herald newspaper whether she thought there would be a second referendum within her premiership.
The first minister replied: "If you're asking me, do I think it's more likely than not? Yes."
She added: "I would like to think that's the case. If I can't persuade more people than we persuaded in 2014 of the case for independence then there won't be. But if we can, then I think there will be."
The SNP manifesto for the Scottish Parliament election does not promise a second independence referendum within the next five year term.
However, it says Holyrood should have the right to hold another referendum if there is "clear and sustained evidence" of majority support for independence, or if there is a "significant and material" change in circumstances, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will.
Ms Sturgeon has already announced a summer initiative targeting those who voted "No" in 2014, when people in Scotland backed remaining part of the UK by 55% to 45%.
The leaders' debate
- Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale; Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie; Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie; SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davdison will take part in a live television debate days before the 5 May election.
- It takes place at Hopetoun House in South Queensferry
- Watch online or on BBC One Scotland at 20:00
Pressed on the issue on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Ms Sturgeon said: "I want Scotland to be independent, I think it's the best future for our country so clearly I would like to see a second referendum, I would like to see Scotland be independent and I would like to see that sooner rather than later.
"But it's not just a decision for me, it's a decision for the majority of people in Scotland and there will only be a second referendum and there will certainly only be independence if a majority of people in Scotland want that."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said that when Ms Sturgeon was pushed on a second referendum, the "mask slips".
He added: "She wants to spend the next five years plotting a second independence referendum and not improving our public services.
"Nicola Sturgeon's priority will always be independence and it is now clear that she wants to kick off a second referendum campaign within weeks. That is the last thing Scotland needs."
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "We always suspected Nicola Sturgeon didn't respect the outcome of Scotland's independence referendum, and she's confirmed as much today.
"She claimed it was once in a generation, and she claims she respects the result.
"Neither of those things are true, and that's exactly why we need a strong opposition to the SNP in the next Scottish Parliament."
And a spokesman for Scottish Labour said: "Given that the SNP manifesto doesn't have a mandate for a second referendum this is incredibly arrogant from Nicola Sturgeon.
"What she should be focused on is stopping the cuts in Scotland, like she promised in the general election last year."