NICOLA Sturgeon has put independence at the heart of her party’s manifesto for next week’s General Election with the document stating a victory for the SNP would mean a “triple lock” for a second referendum.

The First Minister wants to hold another ballot on whether the country remains in the UK before Brexit takes place. Last year, 62 per cent of Scots last year voted to stay in the bloc.

Her party’s manifesto, launched in Perth, said the SNP’s win in last year’s Holyrood elections, a vote in the Scottish Parliament in favour of seeking a referendum and a victory north of the Border on June 8 would “complete a triple lock, further reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists. In such circumstances, any continued Tory attempts to block the people of Scotland having a choice on their future, when the options are clear, and on a timescale determined by the Scottish Parliament, would be democratically unsustainable.”

The SNP won 56 of the 59 Westminster seats in Scotland in a landslide result in 2015 and the party is expected to take a majority of constituencies again, though polls suggest it is likely to lose some.

Responding to questions from journalists Sturgeon indicated the referendum may be delayed past her original timescale and in line with any shifts in the Brexit timetable.

“It is important that people have clarity about Brexit and what that means, and they then have clarity about the options,” she said.

“I’ve said autumn 2018 to spring 2019 for a reason – because that’s when Theresa May is saying the Brexit process will end, so I have taken her at her word.

“If that changes, and I said this on the day I set out these plans, if that changes, then of course we’ll have to consider our timing in light of that.”

Addressing supporters at Perth Concert Hall, the SNP leader justified the need to call a second referendum on the grounds that people in Scotland should be given an alternative to what she believed would be the damaging consequences of Brexit.

She pointed to Scotland’s “world-leading” strengths in food and drink, energy, universities and financial services, and said remaining part of the EU would be a “massive opportunity” for growth while being taken out of the EU and the single market would pose “real dangers”.

“Brexit – especially an extreme Brexit – puts all of that at risk,” she said.

“That is why I believe so strongly that at the end of the Brexit process – not now, but when the terms of the deal are known – Scotland must have a choice about our future; a choice between following the UK down the Brexit path or becoming an independent country.

To cheers and applause from the audience, she added: “There is just too much at stake for Brexit simply to be imposed on Scotland, no matter how damaging it turns out to be. Our future must be decided by us, not for us.”

Mindful that around a third of SNP supporters voted to Leave the EU – with the common fisheries policy (CFP) among the reasons cited in fishing communities – the manifesto promised to “demand the scrapping of fundamental reform” of the CFP and “support Scottish control of Scottish fisheries”.

Anger about the CFP has been focused on quotas for fishing catches and on other European fleets being given equal access to fishing grounds in Scottish waters.

The First Minister said a majority Scottish vote for her party would also provide a “more immediate opportunity” to “make sure that Scotland’s voice is heard” in the Brexit negotiations.

She added that Scottish Government proposals to keep the UK in the single market or for Scotland to have a differentiated Brexit deal where it could stay in the single market had been “brushed aside” by the Prime Minister.

Sturgeon wants these proposals to be up for consideration again by the next UK Government after the election.

“This election offers people the opportunity to give them democratic legitimacy and make it impossible for the Prime Minister to continue to ignore Scotland’s voice,” she said.

“My message to all voters in Scotland is this: whether you voted Leave or Remain last year, or Yes or No in 2014, vote SNP on June 8 to give me a mandate to demand a place for Scotland at the Brexit negotiating table, so we can work to keep Scotland in the single market.”

Pro-independence organisations backed the SNP’s renewed commitment to an independence referendum, dismissing suggestions by the Conservatives that if the SNP lose any seats it would lose its mandate for a referendum.

“We welcome the SNPs inclusion of this in their manifesto,” said Elaine C Smith, co-convenor of the Scottish Independence Convention.

“If people are faced with a choice between a total Tory Brexit Britain and a different future with independence, it’s no wonder [the Tories] will use anything to stop Scotland having a choice.”

Robin McAlpine, Director of Common Weal said: “The Tories have been putting so much effort into trying to prevent Scottish citizens from ever getting another vote on independence that you might start to wonder how low their confidence is that they could win that vote if it was held.”

Colin Fox, national spokesman for the Scottish Socialist Party, said it was a mistake by the SNP to tie independence to Brexit and said the party had underplayed independence.

The Tories, Scottish Labour, the LibDems attacked the SNP for reconfirming the party’s commitment to a referendum, repeating claims that “it was unwanted”.