Nicola Sturgeon is poised to formally seek a "section 30" order from Westminster in a "matter of weeks" to pave the way for a second referendum on Scottish independence to be staged, it was confirmed today.
The First Minister leader stepped up calls for Boris Johnson to allow a repeat of the 2014 vote as she warned activists that calls for a so called "Plan B" - which would see independence talks start after an SNP election victory - were a "unionist trap."
Asked on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show today if she would seek a section 30 order this year, Ms Sturgeon replied: "Yes."
She added: "We will do it the appropriate moment when the legislation is passing - it is likely to be over the next matter of weeks. It is coming soon."
Legislation is currently going through at Holyrood which would pave the way for a second vote on independence, but this requires consent from Westminster.
"We don't yet know who is likely to be in Downing Street, the situation is very fluid. That's why I've taken the decision to do it now, the preparations that are within our control here right now and we're getting on with it."
Nicola Sturgeon has also warned Nationalist hardliners they risk falling into a "unionist trap" over their support for a so-called universal declaration of independence after an SNP election victory.
It comes as new polling evidence suggests that support for independence has risen to 50%. The Panelbase survey for The Sunday Times Scotland also found more respondents than not believe the Scottish economy would be better off with independence in the EU than in the UK after Brexit.
The 50% figure backing independence marks a five point increase on the 45% Panelbase registered on average in its polls last year, which mirrored the 45% yes 55% no result of the 2014 independence referendum.
It has also emerged that a majority of Yes voters would back some form of "Plan B" if Westminster continues to refuse consent for a second referendum on independence.
The SNP gathers in Aberdeen this morning for its annual Autumn conference over the next three days.
Party activists, led by Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny, will seek to hold a debate on the prospect of the party using an election victory - Holyrood or Westminster - as the platform for independence talks. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to grant a "section 30" order which would allow a second referendum to be legally staged.
But Ms Sturgeon told the Sunday National today: "A key part of political leadership is knowing when not to make a miscalculation that those in opposing parties would like you to make.
"That is why I will not fall into the trap that our unionist opponents want me to, by deviating from our current path of ensuring the next independence referendum is legal and constitutional.
"We don't need to be talking about Plan B when we have a perfectly good Plan A."
She added: "If we were to try to hold a referendum that wasn't recognised as legal and legitimate - or to claim a mandate for independence without having demonstrated majority support for it - it would not carry the legal, political and diplomatic weight that is needed.
"It simply wouldn't be accepted by the international community, including our EU friends and partners."
But eight out of ten SNP voters believe there should be some form of Plan B, according to a Panelbase poll published today commissioned by the pro-independence Wings Over Scotland website.
Recent polls indicate that support for independence is on the rise, with Scots now split down the middle on the issue.
A general election is widely expected to be staged in the coming months regardless of the outcome over the current Brexit talks.
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, slammed the prospect of another referendum.
“The SNP promised us the independence referendum in 2014 was a once-in-a-generation contest, so there is no mandate for another divisive Scexit referendum," she said.
“But if there ever is a second attempt to break up the world’s most successful union, Nicola Sturgeon has been clear that it can’t be achieved by winning a majority in an election.
“The SNP certainly doesn’t have momentum on its side. Support for remaining in the UK has risen to 59 per cent, with around half-a-million former Yes voters changing their minds.
“The forthcoming General Election should be about public services and policies, not about creating more division in society.
“The only way to save the pound, grow our economy and invest in public services is to remain in the UK.”