NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted Scotland’s next vote on independence “must happen next year.”

Speaking to delegates at the SNP’s annual conference in Aberdeen, the First Minister said she was “sick” of Westminster, and Brexit, and confirmed that she would be demanding “the transfer of power that puts the legality of a referendum beyond any doubt” within the next 11 weeks.

The First Minister also kicked off the campaign for the 2021 Holyrood election with new pledges on scrapping social care charges and a £60-70 million extension of childcare for the poorest families over the summer holidays.

It’s understood up to 130,000 primary-aged school children could be eligible for “full days of high-quality childcare”.

And the SNP chief also unveiled a new Bill – to be introduced to Holyrood in the next year – to give police new powers to remove suspected domestic abusers from the homes of victims or others at risk.

ANALYSIS: No Plan B in sight ... but the Section 30 order issue still needs to be resolved

Sturgeon told delegates that Brexit was “a symptom of a deeper problem.”

“That problem is the Westminster political union,” she said. “For Scotland, Brexit shows that the Westminster system is broken, and it is broken utterly beyond repair.”

Sturgeon also insisted that the referendum had to be carried out to the same standard as 2014’s vote.

She told delegates: “We have a cast-iron mandate for an independence referendum, that fact is beyond doubt.

“But we don’t just have a right to offer the people of Scotland a choice over their future. In the circumstances now Scotland faces, we have a duty to do so.

“And it is what we intend to do, but let me be clear about this, the process by which we choose Scotland’s future must be capable of actually achieving independence.

“It must allow majority support to be expressed clearly and unambiguously. It must be legal. and it must have the recognition of the international community.”

To great cheers from the party faithful, the First Minister said that her “call” was “that the referendum must happen next year.”

READ MORE: Cherry considering ‘leadership role’ to replace Sturgeon in independent Scotland

“And we are getting ready,” she added. “By the new year, we will have completed our legislative preparations. We are already working to update the independence prospectus.

“And I can confirm today that 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?”

Downing Street has made clear it will not grant the Section 30 order, and devolve Holyrood the powers to hold another ballot.

Labour, too, have said that an independence vote would not be a “priority” in the early stages of a Jeremy Corbyn administration.

Sturgeon said the “Westminster refusal” was “not sustainable.”

She added: “We can already see the cracks appearing. The Labour leaderships in London and Wales have recognised our right to choose.

“They make Scottish Labour look even more ridiculous than normal.

“The other 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.”

But, she added, the SNP would soon “have the chance to show the strength of public opinion” at a general election. “It cannot come soon enough,” the First Minister said, “When it does our message will be clear, simple and unambiguous. Vote SNP to demand independence and secure Scotland’s right to choose.”

Scottish Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw called the speech “lengthy and divisive”.

He tweeted: “Let me be clear. Scottish Conservatives will not support a request to Westminster for a Section 30 order to hold an independence vote in 2020.”