NICOLA Sturgeon has said she is "confident" that people in Scotland will support independence when the second referendum is held.

The First Minister was speaking to Sky News as the third day of her party conference got underway this morning and days after she announced to Holyrood that a new vote would take place by the end of 2023 so long as the Covid pandemic had passed.

Asked about the timing of a new vote by presenter Trevor Phillips she said, pointing to decisions made by prime ministers before the fixed term parliament act on when to call a general election, that "any politician" factors in considerations about when the chance of winning is best before deciding when  a vote is held.

And pressed on the timing of a referendum she said it was a matter of judgement and that "it was very important she got that judgement right".

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She said: "Some polls right now do suggest that Yes would win, others that Yes is slightly behind but I am very confident that when this question is next put people in Scotland will vote Yes and one of those reasons is I've seen that all of those things I've seen that were said to Scotland by the No campaign in the referendum in 2014, not least that being independent would see us lose our European Union membership have turned out to be false. So I am confident about that."

She said: "I think it is right that the country gets to choose its future. There are big decisions to be made by governments everywhere as we emerge from the pandemic. 

"Who do we want taking these decisions, democratically elected governments here in Scotland guided by the values of the Scottish people or governments like Boris Johnson's in Westminster that we don't vote for. So that is the choice and we should get to make that choice when the time is right for the country to do so."

Earlier in the interview she was asked by Phillips why a referendum could not take place during the crisis when the Scottish Parliament election had done. 
Phillips also asked her what level of infections would she judge to assess that the pandemic had passed so a referendum could take place.

"You made the comparison with the election. This is not just about the safety of polling stations, it's about making sure that as the country faces a big important decision about its future it's able to focus on that properly and that it doesn't have looming over that a Covid crisis," she said.

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The First Minister added that the warnings she was given to people about their daily practices (such as hand washing and wearing face masks) and the pressures on the NHS was the "best backdrop" for deciding on the country's constitutional future.

"I'm not going to set a precise level of infections. We would want to see the Covid situation under control, the pressure on our National Health Service significantly lower than it is right now, a sense that we weren't in the acute phase of this crisis, but also crucially an overall environment in the country where people are not in their day to day lives being asked to....still limit or restrict their day to day behaviour."

During her statement to Holyrood last Tuesday, the First Minister also revealed civil servants were restarting preparations for a new prospectus for independence ahead of the vote. Work on the document was paused last year at the start of the Covid crisis.

She will tomorrow give the closing speech to the SNP’s conference, which is being held online because of the pandemic.

During the first two days of conference senior party figures have been underlining the Scottish Government’s commitment to a new vote with Westminster leader Ian Blackford saying yesterday the SNP will “stay true to our word” and deliver indyref2.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who reports said yesterday wants to stay in power for a further 10 years – has refused to grant Holyrood the power to hold an agreed referendum, saying the focus should be on the economic recovery.

The First Minister has said that if the UK Government keeps blocking a second independence referendum, MSPs will pass a referendum bill. However, the UK Government may try to have the legislation struck down at the Supreme Court arguing it is outside Holyrood’s powers.