Nicola Sturgeon has said she hopes to announce her preferred timetable for a second independence referendum “very soon”.

The First Minister said she wanted to set out her plan after “this phase of the Brexit process” had concluded and MPs had decided how to proceed.

READ MORE: Brexit has 'strengthened case for Scottish independence' says Nicola Sturgeon 

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly delayed the “precise timetable” that she promised in June 2017 and was due last autumn because of turmoil over Brexit.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, she said Scotland had been “completely ignored and sidelined” since the EU referendum, strengthening the case for independence.

However she refused to say if stood by the SNP’s assertion in the 2014 referendum that independence could be delivered within 18 months of a Yes vote.

Kevin Pringle, a former special adviser to then First Minister Alex Salmond, said last month that Brexit showed that ambition, set out in the White Paper, was no longer credible.

The Scottish Tories said Ms Sturgeon was permanently obsessed by the constitution.

MPs are due to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal on January 15, with defeat for the Prime Minister widely predicted given opposition from the DUP and many Tory Brexiteers.

Ms Sturgeon has called for the withdrawal process to be extended beyond March 29 to allow more time to find a way out of the impasse, and said she hopes MPs coalesce around a People’s Vote on Brexit.

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She said if the UK-wide result was again Leave despite Scotland backing Remain, it would underline “Scotland’s interests cannot be protected within the current set up within the UK”.

She said: “I think Brexit is against the interests, not just of Scotland, but of the UK, and whatever Scotland’s constitutional future turns out to be, and I hope and expect that will be as an independent country, it’s in our interests that the rest of the UK continues to have as close as possible a relationship with the European Union.”

Asked about the route to a second referendum, she said: “I’ve said I’ll set out my views on the timing of another independence referendum when we get to the end of this phase of the Brexit process.

“I very much hope that will be very soon, and we know at that stage what route the House of Commons is choosing to take.

“Of course there is a mandate to have an independence referendum within this term of the Holyrood parliament.”

Asked if that mandate needed to be fulfilled, she said: “There is every right on the Scottish Government to fulfill that mandate, but I’m not going to go any further around timing just now, because I’ve said that I will wait until this phase of the process concludes.“

However Ms Sturgeon’s mandate for a second referendum depends on Brexit going ahead.

The SNP’s 2016 Holyrood manifesto said Holyrood should have the right to hold another referendum in two scenarios.

First, if there was “clear and sustained evidence” that independence had become the preferred option for most Scots - and there is no such clear and sustained evidence.

Or, second, “if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”.

If a People’s Vote or other event halted Brexit, the second scenario would also not apply.

Ms Sturgeon went on: “Everything that has happened over the past couple of years, from Scotland facing exit from the EU against our will to every reasonable attempt at compromise to protect Scotland's interests by the Scottish Government being spurned, to the powers of the Scottish Parliament being eroded, to the UK Government even taking the Scottish Government to court, all of that has strengthened and reinforced the case for Scotland to be independent, because these are not just academic arguments, all of this will have a material impact on Scotland's economy and well-being for decades to come."

Asked if the assertion that independence could be achieved in 18 months was wrong in hindsight, she said: “We’ll continue to assess all of that in advance of another independence referendum, but the case for independence in materially strengthened from an already strong base in 2014 because of all the experience of Scotland in the last two years.

“We were told in 2014 that it was voting for independence that would put in peril our membership of the European Union. Because we didn’t vote for independence we now not just find us ourselves facing exit, the voice and the interests of Scotland are being completely ignored and sidelined.”

At Westminster, No 10 brushed aside the FM's assertion that Brexit had "materially strengthened" the case for Scottish independence, urging Ms Sturgeon to stop "sowing the politics of division" and work with the UK Government to serve the best interests of the country on Brexit.

In Commons exchanges, the SNP's Ian Blackford noted how, to hear hears from Nationalist colleagues, Ms Sturgeon had argued that the Brexit process had made the case for independence "even stronger".

He told MPs: "This Government should wake up to the reality: Scotland knows who is leading in its interests and it's not the Government in Westminster."

Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, responded by saying the SNP had a constant refrain: "On the one hand, they call for referendums and, on the other, can't seem to cope with the result of those referendums whether that was in 2014 or 2016."

He urged the Nationalists to "respect what was the largest vote in the UK's history".

Acting Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Today Scots are heading back to work at the beginning of a new year, but Nicola Sturgeon is stuck in the past.

“As at the start of 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 her priority is to rerun the referendum of 2014.

“People across the country will correctly be thinking, “There she goes again”.

“Scots have had enough of Sturgeon’s stuck record on independence and just want the SNP to improve public services.

“The best new year’s resolution the SNP could make would be to drop the independence obsession and concentrate on delivering for the people of Scotland.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of anti-independence group Scotland in Union, said: “Nicola Sturgeon couldn't be more wrong. Brexit has weakened the case for independence, not strengthened it. The process has proved how incredibly difficult it is to leave a union.

"Nicola Sturgeon is trying to weaponise Brexit, in a desperate bid to boost support for independence.

"But the majority of people in Scotland know that we are better off together, with a shared culture and history we can build our future on.

"The First Minister should take the threat of a second referendum off the table and get on with the day job of fixing our schools, hospitals and railways."

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said there was no appetite among the people of Scotland for another independence referendum.

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He said: "One of the experiences of Brexit has been just how difficult and painful it can be to break away from a union, even one that has been place for just 40 years. A union that has been in place for 300 years would, in my view, cause considerable economic disruption and there is no appetite from the people of Scotland for it.

"So I think the First Minister should take the earliest opportunity to rule out a second independence referendum."

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie added: "The nationalists appear to have learned absolutely nothing from Brexit. Leaving a successful economic and political union leads to upheaval and uncertainty. Breaking up is hard to do.

"We’re only a week into 2019 and already the First Minister is putting a divisive second independence referendum ahead of fixing growing crises in health and education.

“No one will be surprised to see that independence is the first priority of this SNP government, not fixing our public services.”