The SNP leader, who polls suggest is all but guaranteed to continue as first minister at the helm of another majority government after Thursday’s Holyrood election, said the prospect of a second vote on the issue during her premiership was now “more likely than not”.
The party’s manifesto says the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is “clear and sustained evidence” of majority support for independence, or if there is a “significant and material” change in circumstances, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will.
Ms Sturgeon has already announced a summer initiative targeting those who voted No in 2014, when Scots backed remaining part of the UK by 55% to 45%.
She was asked by the Sunday Herald newspaper whether she thought there would be a second referendum within her premiership.
The First Minister replied: “If you’re asking me, do I think it’s more likely than not? Yes.”
She added: “I would like to think that’s the case. If I can’t persuade more people than we persuaded in 2014 of the case for independence then there won’t be. But if we can, then I think there will be.”
Ms Sturgeon continued: “I am committed to having a referendum when I think there is majority support for that. I would be committed to having a referendum if I thought the circumstances around material change were right.”
Pressed on the comments during an interview on The Andrew Marr Show, she said: “I want Scotland to be independent, I think it’s the best future for our country so clearly I would like to see a second referendum, I would like to see Scotland be independent and I would like to see that sooner rather than later.
“But it’s not just a decision for me, it’s a decision for the majority of people in Scotland and there will only be a second referendum and there will certainly only be independence if a majority of people in Scotland want that.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Push Nicola Sturgeon on a second referendum and the mask slips. She wants to spend the next five years plotting a second independence referendum and not improving our public services.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s priority will always be independence and it is now clear that she wants to kick off a second referendum campaign within weeks. That is the last thing Scotland needs.”