Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish government will restart work on a “detailed prospectus” for independence ahead of a second referendum on the matter.
In her statement to Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon reaffirmed her commitment to a second Scottish independence vote.
She said: “Our democratic mandate to allow people, not politicians, to decide the country’s future is beyond question.”
As Scotland looks to rebuild and recover from the pandemic, she argued “at this juncture in history, it is essential that we consider the kind of country we want to be, and how best to secure it”.
She said questions over Scotland’s future “cannot be avoided, nor postponed until the die is already cast”, as she confirmed the government still hopes to hold a referendum before the end of 2023, “Covid permitting”.
Ms Sturgeon added: “We will ensure that the choice, when it comes, is a fully informed one.
“To that end, I can confirm that the Scottish government will now restart work on the detailed prospectus that will guide the decision.”
She said: “The case for independence is a strong one, and we will present it openly, frankly and with confidence and ambition.”
It comes after Ms Sturgeon said the power-sharing agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens makes the case for a second independence referendum “undeniable”.
She made the comments towards the end of last month during a statement in Holyrood, in which she said a fresh vote should be taken before the end of 2024 as long as the COVID-19 crisis has ended.
Ms Sturgeon said the mandate for another vote was now secure as the SNP and Greens hold 72 of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament.
Earlier this year, Ms Sturgeon told Boris Johnson it is a “matter of when, not if” there will be another vote on Scottish independence.
The SNP has vowed to introduce legislation for another vote, but it could be challenged by the UK government in court.
Scotland voted against independence by 55% to 45% in 2014.
However, SNP supporters argue circumstances have significantly changed due to Westminster’s decision to hold the Brexit vote, which pulled Scotland out of the EU along with the rest of the UK.