The UK Government has repeatedly denied requests for another referendum.
Humza Yousaf has said getting Westminster to grant another vote on Scottish independence will be harder than winning it.
The Scottish Government – under both the current incumbent and predecessor Nicola Sturgeon – has made repeated entreaties to the UK Government to grant another vote and has been rejected every time.
With the UK Supreme Court ruling last year that the Scottish Parliament did not have the powers to hold a referendum, the SNP reverted to a strategy that would treat a general election as a “de-facto” poll on separation, seen by many as their only remaining option.
Speaking at a live recording of the Holyrood Sources podcast in Edinburgh, the First Minister told the audience he had to be up front with members of the party he took over earlier this year.
“There is no getting away from the fact that there is no shortcut if the UK Government continues to deny us the referendum,” he said.
“I don’t think winning it is the most difficult part, getting the referendum is the most difficult part.
“I think actually, once we have it, we have the arguments.”
Mr Yousaf’s statements echo previous confidence that the Yes campaign could deliver independence if another referendum was granted.
However, support for independence in recent opinion polls has struggled to rise above 50%, with the most recent survey, by Redfield and Wilton, suggesting support among decided respondents sat at 48%.
The only way to break through the UK Government’s denials, the First Minister said, was by harnessing the “power of the people” and increasing support for leaving the UK to such a level that it cannot be ignored.
“There’s no other way, there’s no magic shortcut, there’s nothing you can suddenly do, there’s no regulation or law that you can pass that suddenly changes things overnight,” he said.
“It’s going to have to be through the power of the people and that’s when actually the argument is right – that we have to shift the dial considerably.
“We can’t be anywhere between 45% and 52% or 53%, we’re going to have to shift the dial considerably in order for people power to say, ‘we are not going to accept a continued denial from Westminster’ that’s the only way to do it.”