Nicola Sturgeon: 'I'm not rushing towards another referendum'
Nicola Sturgeon has insisted she is not "rushing towards" another Scottish independence referendum.
The SNP leader announced on Thursday that a bill beginning a consultation on a second independence vote would be published next week.
In a BBC interview she promised to explore all options short of independence that would maintain Scotland's place in the single market.
But, if that fails, she said Scots had a right to consider a "different path".
In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, in which a majority of Scots backed Remain, the first minister said another independence vote was "highly likely".
During her address to the SNP conference on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon drew loud applause when she revealed an Independence Referendum Bill would be published next week - the first step on the road towards holding another independence vote.
She told BBC Radio Four's Today programme that 300,000 Scottish jobs were dependent on maintaining Scotland's place in the single market following the Brexit vote.
Ms Sturgeon said detailed proposals that might safeguard Scotland's access to the single market would be published in the next few weeks.
She said: "There are options - for example the kind of option that Norway has. I was in Iceland at the weekend - [the option] that Iceland has of being in the single market but not in the European Union.
"Is that as good as full EU membership? In my view, no it's not. One of the downsides of it is that you have to abide by the rules without influencing the rules - but is it better than being outside the single market completely. Emphatically yes."
She said she hoped her proposals on access to the single market would guide Theresa May's Brexit negotiations.
"There is an ability to be creative and to look at different options that respect how different parts of the UK voted," she said.
"I think there are ways that can be done. I don't pretend - and I have never since the referendum - pretended that it would be straightforward or without challenges and maybe we will find that none of these ways are possible and independence is the only option for Scotland to pursue.
"But we will try very hard to put other options on the table and hope Theresa May will consider them."
'I am not rushing'
She denied that her talk of a second independence vote was "playing to the gallery" or going on a "war footing".
"I didn't ask to be in this position but I have to deal with the situation that exists and I have to do what I can to protect Scotland," she said.
"I am not rushing towards another independence referendum. I have set out very clearly the steps we'll take within the UK to try to protect Scotland - but if that doesn't work I don't think I've got the right to deny Scotland the chance to look at a different path."
Ms Sturgeon also said she though it "inconceivable" that the UK government would try to block a second independence vote if it was backed by the Scottish Parliament.
"I've noted that the prime minister has been at pains to avoid saying that that's what she would do," she said.