Nicola Sturgeon said support for independence is now the “majority view” as she opened the SNP’s conference.
Nicola Sturgeon has opened the SNP conference by telling delegates she has “never been so certain” that Scotland will become independent.
The SNP leader said support for independence was now the “sustained and majority view”.
She told delegates that Scotland was “now a nation on the cusp of making history”.
Opposition parties say such a vote would be divisive, and the focus should be recovering from the Covid pandemic.
And some within Ms Sturgeon’s own party argue a “Plan B” is needed if the UK government refuses to agree to another referendum.
The annual conference, which is being held virtually because of the pandemic, follows a decisive victory for the SNP in last December’s general election in which it won 48 of the 59 available seats.
Party activists will also be buoyed by a number of recent opinion polls suggesting a majority of Scots are now in favour of leaving the UK.
Ms Sturgeon, who is also Scotland’s first minister, delivered an opening message before making her main conference speech on Monday.
She said that while the country was still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, she was now “more hopeful” this will end soon.
“Scotland is now a nation on the cusp of making history,” she told the conference.
“Independence is in clear sight – and with unity of purpose, humility and hard work I have never been so certain that we will deliver it.
“The people of Scotland have the right to choose their future. Let’s now focus all our efforts on making sure we bring about that better country they and future generations deserve.”
Ms Sturgeon has said a majority for pro-independence parties in the Holyrood election next April would be a mandate for holding another referendum on independence.
In a BBC interview ahead of the conference, she said this should then take place “in the earlier part” of the next Scottish Parliament term.
Constitutional matters, however, are reserved to Westminster, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he would not allow such a vote to happen.
The UK government argues that the 2014 referendum – where Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to remain part of the UK – was a described as a “once in a generation” event by both Ms Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond.
Ms Sturgeon has maintained the UK government’s current opposition to indyref2 is unsustainable, but has not outlined what she might do if consent were to be refused.
Some within the SNP and wider independence movement have urged her to develop a so-called Plan B strategy if the UK government does not change its stance.
On Friday SNP MP Joanna Cherry said the Scottish Parliament should legislate to hold an independence referendum, even if the UK government refuses.
In an online lecture for Cardiff University, Ms Cherry argued that while “carefully-worded” proposals for a consultative referendum would inevitably face a legal challenge, it would be worth fighting.
Ms Cherry, who is also a QC, argued there would be nothing to lose from testing this in court if independence supporting parties held a majority of the seats at Holyrood.
Ms Cherry and some of her allies are seeking election to the SNP’s ruling body this weekend.
Opposition parties have said Ms Sturgeon should focus on the fight against Covid rather than her ambition for Scottish independence.
The Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said the SNP were “putting their party before the pandemic”, adding that another referendum would “divide Scotland all over again”.
Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar said it was “insulting” to focus on Scottish independence “in the midst of a global pandemic”, adding that the speech proved that Ms Sturgeon “only has one priority – dividing the people of Scotland”.