Nicola Sturgeon insists second Scottish referendum will happen - but won't say when
Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that there will be a second referendum on Scottish independence - but refused to give any indication of when it might be.
The SNP leader told her party's conference that "the gap between Scotland’s interests and Westminster’s priorities has never been wider".
She said her government has the "mandate" to hold another referendum on the break-up of the UK after they were re-elected last year.
But with support for another independence poll falling, Ms Sturgeon stopped short of saying when it may take place - despite demanding earlier this year that it must take place by spring 2019 at the latest.
Indeed, the First Minister only said the word 'referendum' once in her speech - and that was in reference to the UK-wide Brexit vote held last year.
Ms Sturgeon said: "As I have always said, Scotland should have the right to choose our future when the terms of Brexit are clear. We have a mandate to give the people that choice. That mandate was won fairly and squarely.
"But exercising it must be done with the interests of all of Scotland at heart. People want clarity about Brexit first. We respect that.
"But to all of you here in this hall and across our country who are impatient for change, let me say this. We may not yet know exactly when the choice will be made. But we can, we must, and we will always make the case for independence.
"With the UK government so engulfed in chaos and taking the country down a path of self imposed decline, the need to do so has never been greater."
She said the SNP will continue to campaign for independence, but insisted it would not take place at the expense of governing for the whole of Scotland.
"This is the time ... to put ourselves firmly in the driving seat of our own destiny," she said. "That is what the people of Scotland deserve. That is what we will deliver."
Elsewhere in her speech, which often received a muted reaction from delegates in the conference hall, Ms Sturgeon announced that the Scottish government will set up a publicly-owned energy company for 2021 to challenge the privatised utilities.
She also said young care leavers will be exempt from council tax, free childcare will be increased to 30 hours by 2020, tuition fees will continue to be frozen at zero and the public sector pay cap will be lifted.
Interim Scottish Labour leader Alex Rowley accused Ms Sturgeon of stealing his party's policies.
He said: "Nicola Sturgeon is clearly worried about a Labour party offering radical change within the UK. The problem she has is that after a decade of broken SNP promises voters know that it’s only Labour which offers transformational change.
"Having attempted to photocopy Labour policies, Nicola Sturgeon now faces the real test – outlining how she will pay for them. Only Labour is offering a progressive plan on tax that stops the cuts and allows us to invest instead."
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