Nicola Sturgeon has said she will “never, ever give up on Scottish democracy” if UK ministers continue to reject plans for an independence vote.
Prime Minister Liz Truss has rejected a referendum, but the first minister said this was “completely indefensible”.
The Supreme Court is to debate whether Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) could set up a vote alone, and Sturgeon has said she could use a future election to settle the issue.
The SNP leader said the “vast majority” of Scots would take part in any vote.
Truss has said “no, no, no” to the idea of a referendum, but Sturgeon said this rejection was “one of the most powerful arguments for Scotland being an independent country”.
The SNP leader was speaking to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg ahead of her leader speech at the SNP conference on Monday.
She provoked controversy by saying “I detest the Tories”, comments which were branded “dangerous language” by Conservative minister Nadim Zahawi.
She later clarified her comments, saying: “I was not referring to individuals or certainly not to people who vote Tory but I was referring to Tory policies and values that do a lot of damage”.
Asked if she regretted her choice of words, she said “no”.
She also spoke of her plans for a referendum in just over a year’s time, and told Kuenssberg that she was “confident that can happen”.
The first minister said she did not want to pre-judge the deliberations of the Supreme Court, which is to examine whether MSPs can pass legislation to set up a referendum without Westminster’s backing.
Former deputy president of the court Lord Hope told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show that the court could hand down a verdict within six to eight weeks.
Sturgeon said the “vast majority” of Scots would take part in a
“lawful referendum” if the court paved the way for that, regardless of what position UK ministers take.
And she said her “last resort” option would be to use a future general election as a single-issue vote on independence.
She said: “That is not my preference, but we have to have an alternative.
“If the route by which it would be right to consider and decide this issue – a lawful constitutional referendum – is blocked by Westminster because they fear the democratic choice of the people of Scotland then for me and the SNP the choice is simple.
“We put the case to people in an election or we give up on Scottish democracy. And I want to be clear today I will never give up on Scottish democracy.”
Sturgeon said she would “try to work constructively” with Truss as prime minister. (BBC)