Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland “will get the right to decide our own future” despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejecting her plea for a second independence referendum.
Scotland’s First Minister wrote to the Tory leader days after his victory in last month’s general election claiming there was a “democratic case” for a fresh vote on the constitution.
But her call for the powers to hold such a vote to be transferred to Holyrood was flatly rejected by Mr Johnson, who claimed a second ballot on independence would lead to continued “political stagnation” in Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon, who has previously refused to rule out legal action in a bid to force a second independence vote, said the Scottish Government would set out the next steps it will take before the end of January.
She said the Scottish Government would again ask MSPs at Holyrood to endorse “Scotland’s right to choose”.
“The people of Scotland will get the right to decide our own future in an independence referendum,” the SNP leader said.
“The Westminster union cannot be sustained without consent. Democracy will prevail.
“The only question is how long it will take the Tories and the rest of the Westminster establishment to accept that inevitability.”
Scots voted by 55% to 45% to stay in the UK in a referendum in 2014.
In his letter to Ms Sturgeon, the PM said he had “carefully considered” the arguments she made for a second ballot.
But he said Ms Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond had made a “personal commitment” the 2014 referendum would be a “once in a generation” event.
“The UK Government will continue to uphold the democratic decision of the Scottish people and the promise that you made to them,” he wrote.
“For that reason I cannot agree to any request for a transfer of power that would lead to further independence referendums.”
Mr Johnson added: “Another independence referendum would continue the political stagnation that Scotland has seen for the last decade, with Scottish schools, hospitals and jobs again left behind because of a campaign to separate the UK.
“It is time that we all worked to bring the whole of the United Kingdom together and unleash the potential of this great country.”
At Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, the PM told ministers his Government “has an optimistic vision for Scotland and our whole country in 2020”, adding “we do not want the 2020s in Scotland to repeat the previous SNP’s lost decade when Scottish schools, hospitals and jobs were left behind because of their campaign to separate the United Kingdom”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said there was “full support” for his decision to refuse Ms Sturgeon’s request.
Interim Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said the PM’s letter was a “clear call to the Scottish Government to invest its energies in the domestic agenda and respect the result of the 2014 vote”.
Ms Sturgeon said the PM’s stance was “not surprising” as she claimed the Tories were “terrified of Scotland having the right to choose our own future”.
“They know that given the choice the overwhelming likelihood is that people will choose the positive option of independence,” she said.
“The Tories – and their allies in the leaderships of Labour and the Lib Dems – lack any positive case for the union so all they can do is try to block democracy.
“It shows utter contempt for the votes, views and interests of the people of Scotland and it is a strategy that is doomed to failure. ”
The First Minister added: “It is not politically sustainable for any Westminster Government to stand in the way of the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future and to seek to block the clear democratic mandate for an independence referendum.
“The problem for the UK Government is that the longer they try to block a referendum, the more they demonstrate that the Westminster union is not a partnership of equals and the more support for independence will grow.”
Demands for a second independence referendum have been mounting since the Brexit vote in 2016, with Scotland now facing leaving the EU at the end of this month despite almost two-thirds of voters north of the border having backed Remain.
Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the pro-independence Scottish Green Party, said: “It is absolutely appalling that we are to be ripped from the EU against our will and utterly undemocratic that we are being denied a say on our future.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, called for Ms Sturgeon to “focus exclusively on her devolved responsibilities”, adding: “The majority of people in Scotland don’t want a divisive second independence referendum.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said it would “spectacularly naive” to think Mr Johnson’s refusal to grant consent would “close the issue down”.
Instead he said it would “only inflame the debate” about Scotland’s future, adding: “The people of Scotland rejected independence in 2014 but Scotland remains divided.
“I believe that home rule within the UK is the only viable option that stands a chance of healing the divisions in our society.
“We can’t wait for a UK Labour Government to deliver this so we must demand it now and mobilise for radical change.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said his party was “on the side of the majority of people in Scotland do not want another independence referendum”.
He added: “What this country needs is a Government that is focused on delivering excellent public services and a federal UK that ensures that power is shared across the whole of the country.”