First minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, says the fall of 2018 would be “the commonsense time” for a second independence referendum.
In an interview with BBC on Thursday, Sturgeon implied that she agreed with leading nationalists, including her predecessor Alex Salmond, who believe late next year would be the ideal time for a vote.
"Within that window, of when the outline of a UK deal becomes clear and the UK exiting the EU, I think would be a commonsense time for Scotland to have that choice, if that is the road we choose to go down,” she said.
“It’s not a game, it’s really, really serious and the implications for the UK are serious and the implications for Scotland are serious,” she added.
Sturgeon's comments come as the British government gets ready to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, allowing formal negotiations on exiting the EU to begin.
Article 50 would initiate two years of talks between London and the 28-nation bloc.
Under current constitutional conventions, a second independence vote in Scotland needs to be approved by the UK and such a request could prove difficult.
Scotland held an independence referendum in 2014 in which 55 percent of Scots voted to stay in the UK, while 45 percent voted to become independent.
In a direct warning to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Sturgeon said she was not bluffing with a second referendum and attacked politicians in Westminster “who think Brexit and all of this is some kind of game.”
On Thursday, a spokesman for May rejected calls for a second Scottish referendum, labeling the discussion around it a "distraction."
“The question is: Should there be a second referendum? No, we don't believe that there should,” he said.
“The referendum was held only in 2014. It was a fair, decisive and legal vote. Both sides agreed to abide by that and we think that both sides should. The continued discussion around a second referendum is a distraction,” the spokesman added.
Meanwhile, the leader of Scotland’s opposition party, Ruth Davidson, reaffirmed her intention to prevent the ruling Scottish National Party from holding a second independence referendum.
The Scottish Conservative Party leader added that less than one in three Scottish people actually wanted a referendum.
Prime Minister May has said keeping England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together was her personal priority and there was no economic case for breaking up the UK.
In a referendum held on June 23, nearly 52 percent of British voters, amounting to more than 17 million citizens, opted to leave the EU, a decision that sent shock waves throughout the world.
The majority of voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland, however, voted to stay in the bloc.