Nicola Sturgeon today told Scots the prospect of independence offers a “better future” as she pledged to press ahead with another vote.
The First Minister said in her keynote address to delegates that she already has a mandate for a second referendum and only the timing remained to be clarified.
Deputy leader Angus Robertson won applause from delegates when he appeared to indicate it will happen before the next Holyrood election in 2021.
“Scotland should have the right to choose our future when the terms of Brexit are clear,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“We have a mandate to give the people that choice. That mandate was won fairly and squarely. But exercising it must be done with the interests of all of Scotland at heart. People want clarity about Brexit first.
“We respect that. But to all of you here in this hall and across our country who are impatient for change, let me say this.
“We may not yet know exactly when the choice will be made. But we can, we must, and we will always make the case for independence.”
The First Minister said the UK government is “engulfed in chaos” over over Brexit and the UK is now in terminal decline meaning the case for independence has “never been greater.”
“So let us make our case with conviction,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“Let us address concerns head on.
“And above all, let us inspire confidence in our fellow citizens that the way things are now is not the way they must always be.
“There is a better future to be had for all of us, if we chose to build it, together.”
Earlier Mr Robertson, who lost his Moray seat in the Summer election, set delegates on a referendum footing.
“It’s 1300 days until the next Scottish Parliament election - and there will be a referendum on Scottish independence.”
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Ms Sturgeon conceded that there had been “tough days” for the party.
But the Scottish First Minister was clear her government still has support in Scotland.
The SNP leader provided opponents with a “gentle reality check”, saying her party was polling at “a higher level today than we were at this point in the honeymoon days after our 2007 win or our landslide in 2011”.
She added: “Our lead over the second placed party now is twice what it was in October 2008 - and it is five times that of 2012.
“Ten years into government, the verdict of the Scottish people is clearer than ever. They trust the SNP to deliver for Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon hit out at the SNP’s opponents - telling delegates at the conference that Scottish Labour was having it’s “annual leadership election”.
She said: “Hypocrites, plotters, betrayers, barrel scrapers. No, that’s not what we’ve been calling the candidates. That’s what they’ve been calling each other.
“These days, ferrets in a sack distance themselves from Scottish Labour.”
To cheers from the audience she said the Tories were “now back in third place in Scottish politics” as she hit out at the Conservatives over their “racism, misogyny and sectarianism”.
She issued a challenge to Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, saying: “The disgusting views that have been expressed by too many Tory politicians have no place in public life.
“It’s time Ruth Davidson found some backbone and kicked the racists and bigots out of her party.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “The opposition in Scotland are all over the place.
“That’s why more than ever the responsibility is on us, the SNP, to provide the good government that the people of our country expect and deserve.”