Sturgeon: Case for independence gaining ground every day
The First Minister said the 'Brexit fiasco' had boosted the arguments for independence.
The case for Scotland to be independent is "gaining ground every day" due to the "fiasco" of Brexit, the First Minister has said.
Nicola Sturgeon refused to be drawn on when she will announce her plans regarding a future independence referendum but said she expects it will be soon.
Her remarks come as MPs and MSPs return to Westminster and Holyrood for the new year.
The House of Commons will resume its debate on Theresa May's Brexit deal on Wednesday, with the date of the meaningful vote reportedly confirmed for Tuesday, January 15.
The Scottish Conservatives rounded on the First Minister's comments as being "stuck in the past", calling on her to "drop the independence obsession".
Sturgeon also urged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to "get off the fence" and back a second EU referendum if the Prime Minister's deal is voted down next week, as is widely expected.
She told STV News: "If Labour doesn't stop prevaricating and effectively enabling Brexit as it's doing just now then I think it's going to pay a very heavy price.
"We saw polls over the weekend that would suggest that is the case. The vast majority of Labour supporters and members don't want Brexit at all; they certainly don't want this deal.
"I think there's a big question for Jeremy Corbyn now: is he going to get off the fence and actually do what the majority of his own party members want him to do, which is back a second referendum?"
The Prime Minister has warned that the UK will be in "uncharted territory" if her deal is rejected in next week's crunch vote.
May previously delayed the vote on her agreement with the EU to look for further assurances from Brussels that the Irish backstop will be temporary.
Sturgeon said she would lay out her proposed next steps regarding an independence vote after the Brexit process has finished.
"I'll set out my views in due course when we get to that point but I expect that to be soon," she said.
"I would have expected that to be before Christmas but Theresa May delayed the meaningful vote."
The Prime Minister refused a request from the First Minister in 2017 for a Section 30 order legally granting the Scottish Government the ability to administer an independence referendum.
Sturgeon said there was "no doubt at all that the already strong case for independence has been immeasurably strengthened by the whole Brexit fiasco".
She added: "We've seen that for Scotland the price of not being independence is that we face being taken out of the EU against our will; we face being taken out of the single market even though it will hurt our economy, the powers of the Scottish Parliament have been eroded, all attempts at compromise to protect Scotland's interests have been completely ignored by the UK Government.
"More and more, I think the argument that for Scotland to properly protect its own interest and build the best future possible, we need to be independent, is an argument that's gaining ground every day."
'Leaving a successful economic and political union leads to upheaval and uncertainty. Breaking up is hard to do.'Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie
The Prime Minister reiterated her view expressed back in 2017 that "now is not the time" for a new independence vote north of the border.
May's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has throughout this process sought to engage with the devolved administration on Brexit.
"She's been working hard to get the best possible Brexit deal for the whole UK.
"In terms of a second referendum, the Prime Minister has been very clear that now is not the time and that what the different parties should be doing is working together in the best interests of the UK rather than on - in her words, when she visited Scotland - 'sowing the politics of division'."
Scottish Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw said: "Today Scots are heading back to work at the beginning of a new year, but Nicola Sturgeon is stuck in the past.
"As at the start of 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 her priority is to rerun the referendum of 2014. People across the country will correctly be thinking, 'There she goes again'."
He added: "The best new year's resolution the SNP could make would be to drop the independence obsession and concentrate on delivering for the people of Scotland."
Carlaw was joined by other opposition party leaders in his call, with Scottish Labour's Richard Leonard urging Sturgeon to rule out a fresh independence vote.
Leonard said: "One of the experiences of Brexit has been just how difficult and painful it can be to break away from a union, even one that has been place for just 40 years.
"A union that has been in place for 300 years would, in my view, cause considerable economic disruption and there is no appetite from the people of Scotland for it.
"So I think the First Minister should take the earliest opportunity to rule out a second independence referendum."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The nationalists appear to have learned absolutely nothing from Brexit.
"Leaving a successful economic and political union leads to upheaval and uncertainty. Breaking up is hard to do.
"We're only a week into 2019 and already the First Minister is putting a divisive second independence referendum ahead of fixing growing crises in health and education."