Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated that Scots may be called upon to vote on declaring independence from the United Kingdom by the year 2019. She said the Scottish government will publish a draft independence referendum bill within the week.
The referendum would be Scotland's second since 55.3 percent of Scottish voters opted to remain in the UK in September 2014.
But a separate nationwide referendum in June this year on a British exit from the European Union triggered calls for a second Scottish poll after the majority of Scots voted to stay in the EU, while the rest of the UK voted to leave.
"If you think for one single second that I'm not serious about doing what it takes to protect Scotland's interests, then think again," Sturgeon said at the start of her ruling Scottish National Party's (SNP) bi-annual conference on Thursday.
"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."
Her speech was a stern warning to Prime Minister Theresa May, who last week said the UK will invoke Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty by the end of March next year. The leaving process is expected to last two years.
Sturgeon, however, accused the British government of "constitutional vandalism" by ignoring Scotland's voice over Brexit. She also said the SNP, which holds 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland, planned to seek powers to give Scotland a more inclusive and internationalist path.
"We will seek to make this plan a key element of the UK's Article 50 negotiation," she said.
"It will require substantial additional powers for the Scottish Parliament. All the powers in our areas of responsibility that currently lie with the EU - and significant new powers too," she added.