Nicola Sturgeon has insisted Scots will have a second independence referendum next year despite no evidence the UK Government intends to let it happen.

Just a day after Boris Johnson used the Queen’s Speech to underline his commitment to the Union, the First Minister told her party to get ready for a vote that “must happen next year”.

She also claimed independence could be Scotland’s greatest contribution to “human progress” and “a light in a world that seems dark”.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Nicola Sturgeon to push for indyref2.Camley's Cartoon: Nicola Sturgeon to push for indyref2.

She said: “For Scotland, the hope lies in becoming an independent nation. Be in no doubt about this. We are winning the case for independence.”

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She said she Brexit had shown the Westminster system was “broken utterly beyond repair” and delivering an independence as an alternative was her party’s “duty”.

Monday’s Queen’s Speech said the “the integrity and prosperity of the union that binds the four nations of the United Kingdom” was of “utmost importance” to the UK Government. 

However, addressing the SNP conference, Ms Sturgeon said Westminster resistance to a referendum was cracking and she would ask for the required powers by the end of the year.

She said the Unionist parties could not deny the Scottish people a choice on their own future.

But she offered no ‘Plan B’ on what she would do if the UK Government said No.

On Sunday, Ms Sturgeon crushed a grassroots demand to use an SNP election win as the basis for negotiating independence rather than another referendum.

She said the party had to stick to demanding a legal referendum, as only that would be recognised by the international community. 

Her deputy leader Keith Brown also told the conference that Scotland would not accept a Westminster veto, and the Scottish Government was not seeking permission for a referendum, but for an agreement on one.

If, as expected, Ms Sturgeon’s demand for a referendum is rejected, she can put the issue of who decides Scotland’s fate at the centre the SNP’s 2021 election campaign.

Ms Sturgeon was given repeated standing ovations by party activists in the cavernous Event Complex in Aberdeen when she talked about the SNP’s founding mission.

Her opponents criticised her speech for being big on rhetoric, but low on practical detail for how to improve public services such as health and education

The Scottish Conservatives said the speech has exposed Ms Sturgeon’s true priorities, which were to “get through conference” and “throw red meat to the hardliners”.

Ms Sturgeon did announce some policies, however, including abolition of non-residential social care charges, free child care for the poorest families over summer holidays, and emergency banning orders for domestic abusers.

She also attacked the “strongman” populism of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

But her speech led to claims of hypocrisy afters said she was showing global leadership on climate change while her party raffled a car as the main prize in the conference draw.

On independence, she said: “My call is that the referendum must happen next year. And we are getting ready.  

“By the new year, we will have completed our legislative preparations.  We are already working to update the independence prospectus.  

“Before the end of this year, I will demand the transfer of power that puts the legality of a referendum beyond any doubt. And when I do, the question should not be to the SNP – what will we do if Westminster refuses?

“The question should be demanded of the Westminster parties – what gives you any right to deny people in Scotland our ability to choose our own future?

“The Westminster refusal is not sustainable. We can already see the cracks appearing.”

She went on: “The Labour leaderships in London and Wales have recognised our right to choose.

“The [Holyrood] parties are so lacking in confidence that a referendum can be blocked that they’re now trying to rig the question. Just like us, they know there is going to be a referendum.

“And they know that when there is, Scotland will choose independence.Support is rising.

“Our task is to build it even further and make the demand irresistible.” 

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She concluded: “Scotland’s contribution to human progress down the ages is immeasurable.

“But perhaps our greatest contribution will be this - a new country founded on hope and a vision of shared humanity and compassion. A light in a world that seems dark.”

Interim Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Nicola Sturgeon wants to be judged on health and education, yet she couldn’t spare a single sentence for either during this lengthy and divisive speech.

“Instead, she simply wanted to get through what was a potentially hostile conference with a series of vacuous promises which will never be kept, and throw some red meat to the hardliners.

“Both the NHS and Scotland’s education system are in a dreadful state – a state that has significantly worsened over the 12 years the SNP has been in power.

“You’d think the First Minister would make some kind of effort to explain that, to apologise, or at least set out how she planned to turn things around.

“But she preferred to play to the gallery and say things she knew would go down well in the hall. And when she does demand the powers to hold a second unwanted and divisive referendum, the answer should be an unequivocal No.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “The last thing our communities need is more division and uncertainty, but that is exactly what Nicola Sturgeon is proposing.

“The SNP’s plans for independence could result in a hard border between Scotland and England which would cost jobs, hurt our public services and divide families.”

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said: “Independence will be bad for Scotland just like Brexit because breaking up long term economic partnerships is very hard to do.

“Instead of cutting and running for independence, Nicola Sturgeon should come back on board the campaign to stop Brexit across the UK.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “This was a speech full of nationalist rhetoric with no answers about the catastrophic impact of breaking up the UK.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s obsession with dividing communities is clear for all to see.

“She provided no answers about the consequences of a hard border with England; no answers about how to cope with a cut in public spending of £2,000 per person; and no answers about the damage that scrapping the pound would inflict on our economy.

“As it presses ahead with a new blueprint and a formal Section 30 request, the SNP must now be open and honest with voters about the reality of Scexit.”