Nicola Sturgeon said remaining in the European Union is the “best future” for Scotland, and that a second independence referendum would give people a choice as to whether they wish to accept a “hard Brexit future”.
Earlier Holyrood’s Brexit minister Mike Russell insisted a fresh independence referendum is now the only way of protecting Scotland from the ‘’hardest of Brexits’’.
This week Ms Sturgeon declared she is to seek to hold a second referendum, accusing the Prime Minister of ignoring Scotland over Europe after 62% of people north of the border voted to remain last June.
Speaking on Channel 4 News on Wednesday evening she said: “It is a big decision but it’s one that I’ve taken in what I consider to be in the best interests of Scotland.
“It’s all about giving people in Scotland a choice.
“If we don’t have the option of a referendum then effectively we are accepting right now a future that is a hard Brexit future with Conservative governments at Westminster for perhaps 20 years or more.
“If people want that then that’s fine, they can choose that, but I think it’s right that people have a choice given how much is now at stake for our country.
“I want Scotland to stay in the EU, that’s the long-standing SNP policy.
“What we have to do, as we did in 2014 but now in the different circumstances we face, is, before people are asked to make that choice, set out the process by which we secure our relationship with Europe.
“I’ve said I want Scotland to be in the European Union, I campaigned for remain, that is why I think that is the best future.”
Asked whether she might consider calling off the referendum if Mrs May gets a Brexit agreement as good as the single market, she replied: “I don’t think she’s going to and I’m not alone in that.
“I think there is more chance of Theresa May getting a bad deal or no deal than there is of getting a deal that is just as good as the single market.”
Asked if there was anything the Prime Minister could say or do to make her call off the referendum, she said: “I think that has to be for her to decide.
“I have really bust a gut over the past few months trying to reach some kind of common ground and compromise with the Prime Minister.
“All of those efforts have just been hit with this brick wall of intransigence.”
Commenting on the timing of the referendum she said it should take place when the terms of Brexit are clear but “before it’s too late to choose a different path if that’s what we decide”.
Earlier on Wednesday Mrs May made clear Scotland would be leaving the EU as a result of the Brexit vote - regardless of whether or not it becomes independent.
Her insistence that Scotland will leave the EU stems from Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas’ statement the ‘’Barroso doctrine’’ continues to apply.
Former commission president Jose Manuel Barroso set out the legal view that if one part of an EU country became an independent state, it would have to apply for EU membership.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs May said: ‘’Scotland will be leaving the European Union, it will leave the European Union either as a member of the United Kingdom or were it independent, it’s very clear with the Barroso doctrine it would not be a member of the European Union.
‘’What we need now is to unite, to come together as a country and to ensure that we can get the best deal for the whole of the United Kingdom.’’