Opposition to an independence referendum will be “democratically unsustainable” if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The SNP leader was speaking in Perth as her party’s general election manifesto was published.
The document calls for a vote on independence to be held “at the end of the Brexit process”.
The SNP won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland in the 2015 general election.
And the party is widely expected to again finish as comfortably the biggest in the country this time around, despite opinion polls suggesting it is likely to lose some seats.
The party’s manifesto also sets out “anti-austerity” plans to invest £118bn in UK public services, and pledges to increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour.
And it calls for Scotland to have control over immigration and to remain in the EU single market after Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly said that “now is not the time” for a second referendum.
And the Conservative manifesto promises there will be no vote on independence until the Brexit process has “played out” and unless there is “public consent” for one to be held – although it does not specify what that means.
Ms Sturgeon called earlier this year for a referendum to be held in the autumn of next year or the spring of 2019.
Speaking at the manifesto launch, Ms Sturgeon she said a vote should be held “not now, but when the final terms of the deal are known”.
‘Reinforce that mandate’
The SNP leader added: “There is too much at stake for Brexit simply to be imposed on Scotland, no matter how damaging it turns out to be. Our future must be decided by us, not for us.
“Last year’s Holyrood election delivered the democratic mandate for an independence referendum in the event of Brexit, and the recent vote of the Scottish Parliament underlined that mandate.
“If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats in this election, that will further reinforce that mandate. And in these circumstances, any continued Tory attempts to block Scotland having a choice – when the time is right and the options are clear – would be democratically unsustainable.”
The manifesto also includes:
- A plan for additional NHS spending across the UK that would, by 2021/22, increase the NHS Scotland budget by up to an extra £1bn
- Increase the minimum wage to over £10 per hour by the end of the parliament
- Lift the freeze on benefits and abolish the two-child cap and the so-called Rape Clause
- Protect the triple lock on pensions, protect the winter fuel allowance and support fair pensions for women
- No increase in taxation on the low paid, in National Insurance or in VAT.
- Support a UK-wide increase in the higher rate of taxation from 45p to 50p.
Ms Sturgeon, who is Scotland’s first minister, said the manifesto had “fairness and opportunity at its heart” and was a manifesto for a “country that is welcoming and outward-looking”.
She added: “Now, more than ever, it is vital to have strong SNP voices standing up for Scotland.
“In this election, let us make sure we strengthen Scotland’s hand, not Theresa May’s. Otherwise, much of what we cherish and value will be under threat.”
Little mention of indyref2 – By Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor
The most extraordinary thing about this manifesto was the playing down of the independence issue.
Pledge number 10 of 10 is strengthening Scotland’s independence mandate.
Similarly, in the speech, Nicola Sturgeon’s focus was remorselessly on opposing Tory austerity.
That’s remarkable because independence is the lifeblood of the SNP, but clearly they’ve made the calculation that it’s better to focus on domestic matters.
Targeting the Tories – By Philip Sim, BBC Scotland political reporter
The longest and loudest applause from SNP activists was on mention of indyref2. The manifesto foresees a “triple lock” for another referendum if the SNP win a majority of Scottish seats.
They were also enthused by talk of scrapping the two-child cap on tax credits, and thus the end of the controversial “rape clause”.
The one big change from 2015 was the extent to which Nicola Sturgeon is targeting the Tories.
Last time out Labour were the SNP’s key opponents; this year they clearly see the Conservatives in that role. There was next to no mention of Labour at the launch, while every opportunity was taken to pitch the SNP as a strong opponent to the Tories at Westminster.
Ms Sturgeon has sought to portray the election as a chance to protect Scotland from Conservative policies, arguing that Scottish votes for the SNP “can stop Theresa May having a free hand at Westminster to do whatever she wants”.
And she used the vast majority of her speech at the manifesto launch to condemn the Conservatives for their “assault on social security”, saying this was an attack on the poor, disabled and vulnerable in society.
“These cuts strike at the very heart of how we see ourselves as a nation and our shared ambition for the future,” she said
“They are unfair and they are designed to divide.”
She has previously said she would be open to seeking a “progressive alliance” at Westminster to keep the Conservatives out of government in the event of a hung parliament.
But she has predicted that the Conservatives will win another majority in the election – and has said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is not a credible candidate to be prime minister.
Mr Corbyn has insisted he would not do a deal with the SNP to gain power at Westminster, pledging: “There will be no deals. There will be no alliance. We’re fighting this election to win.”
He has also firmly opposed a second referendum in recent weeks, claiming it is “unnecessary and unwanted”, despite saying earlier this year he would be “fine” with one being held if the Scottish Parliament called for it.
‘Education not separation’
However, in a radio interview on Monday, Mr Corbyn said he would “open discussions” with the Scottish government if he becomes prime minister – but said he would suggest they “think very carefully about it”.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives are to publish fresh plans to improve standards in Scotland’s schools as part of its demand for Ms Sturgeon to focus on “education, not separation”.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “Nicola Sturgeon asked to be judged on education. Standards are down, there is a teacher shortage, we have a curriculum in crisis and our poorest children are being let down.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said Ms Sturgeon had “once again confirmed that her number one priority in this election is her plan for another unwanted and divisive independence referendum”.
She added: “While Nicola Sturgeon campaigns for independence, standards in our schools have fallen and NHS services face closure.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The SNP must think we are stupid. They barely mentioned independence today but we know independence will be their top priority once the election is over.
“We know that because after every previous election that’s exactly what they’ve done. At every election they pretend they are fighting for the greater good but all they ever fight for is independence.”