NICOLA Sturgeon took delegates at the SNP conference by storm yesterday when she announced she will publish a draft Independence Referendum Bill next week.

To rapturous applause on the opening day of the three-day event, Sturgeon said she was ready for the prospect of Scotland “charting its own course”, and that she was confident of winning a new vote.

Pitching a fresh case for sovereignty, she went on: “We are one of the wealthiest nations on earth. We are rich in natural resources. We are world leaders in life sciences, technology and renewables. We are at the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing. In tourism, and in food and drink, we are unrivalled. Our foundations are strong.

“So if the choice we face is an inward-looking, insular, Brexit Britain, governed by a right-wing Tory Party, obsessed with borders and blue passports at the expense of economic strength and stability – or a progressive, outward-looking, internationalist Scotland, able to chart our own course and build our own security and prosperity, then know this – that is a case we will win.”

During her 20-minute speech in Glasgow, the First Minister said a bill – mentioned without indicating any timing when she announced her programme for government last month – was necessary to give people the opportunity to consider independence again following the EU referendum result, and the likelihood of a “hard Brexit” with the UK outside the single market.

She laid down a challenge to Theresa May, who has said no part of the UK will have “an opt-out”, despite Scotland voting by 62 per cent to stay within the bloc. If you can’t – or won’t – allow us to protect our interests within the UK, then Scotland will have the right to decide, afresh, if it wants to take a different path,” Sturgeon warned the Prime Minister.

“A hard Brexit will change the UK fundamentally. A UK out of the single market – isolated, inward- looking, haemorrhaging jobs, investment and opportunities – will not be the same country that Scotland voted to stay part of in 2014.

“If that’s the insecure, unstable prospect we face as part of the UK, then no-one will have the right to deny Scotland the chance to choose a better future.

“I am determined that Scotland will have the ability to reconsider the question of independence – and to do so before the UK leaves the EU – if that is necessary to protect our country’s interests. So I can confirm today that the Independence Referendum Bill will be published for consultation next week.”

The First Minister said a new campaign would not be a re-run of the one in 2014, when voters backed staying in the UK by 55 per cent to 45 per cent, but would “engage” voters “with a fresh eye and an open mind”.

Sturgeon insisted, too, that the Tories have no mandate to take Scotland out of the single market, pointing to a Treasury report which estimated that leaving the single market could cost the UK’s economy up to £66 billion a year, with Scotland standing to lose 80,000 jobs and annual wages cut by up to £2,000.

Referring to May’s “no opt-out” remarks she accused the Prime Minister of having displayed “disregard for Scotland’s democratic voice that was reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher”.

The SNP leader told the 3,000-strong audience: “High-handed pronouncements that dismiss Scottish opinion might delight the Tory party conference, but they are no longer acceptable to mainstream Scotland.”

Sturgeon also revealed SNP MPs at Westminster will vote against the “Brexit Bill” when it comes before the House of Commons next year and will attempt to seek agreement with other parties – including moderate Tories – to do likewise.

Describing Holyrood as the “democratic heartbeat of our nation” she added: “To deny it the right to give or withhold its consent on an issue of such magnitude would be an act of constitutional vandalism. It is not on.”

Sturgeon said she will also put forward a plan aimed at protecting Scotland’s interests in Europe and make it a key element of the UK’s Article 50 negotiations.

SNP ministers would also seek “substantial additional powers”, including giving Holyrood the right to agree its own deals with other nations and powers over immigration in the negotiations. “UK ministers might believe it acceptable to order businesses to create lists of foreign workers. We do not,” Sturgeon said. National speaks to SNP conference delegates: ‘I used to cross the road to avoid Yes maniacs - now I’m here'.23552 support first step towards fresh indyref but Unionists howl in disapproval.23554 Robertson is elected SNP depute leader.23555 National sets out stall for an independent Scotland.23557 Diary: The price of coffee and Sparkle Monkey.23558