The 2014 campaign for Scottish independence contained weaknesses, Nicola Sturgeon has conceded.
She was asked about the historic ballot on the day the Scottish Government had earmarked as “independence day” if voters had supported leaving the UK.
Ms Sturgeon announced earlier this month the SNP will launch a new drive this summer to convince Scots to support the “beautiful dream”.
The party leader said she would hear “concerns” and “address questions” from No voters, adding the party was prepared to challenge some of the answers it gave nearly 18 months ago.
Her predecessor Alex Salmond has suggested it is time to look again at currency options – one of the key debating points during the campaign.
Mr Salmond said he believes sterling is the right currency for Scotland but argued it was right the case for independence has some “refurbishing” to make it fit for a new era.
Speaking from the Scottish election campaign trail in Dumbarton constituency, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think he said exactly the same as I’m saying – we didn’t win the campaign, so by definition there must be weaknesses and issues on which we were unable to persuade people.
“So, if Scotland is going to become independent, and I hope that is the case, then we have to recognise that and work hard to persuade people.
“Scotland will only become independent if and when a majority want it, and the SNP should embrace that and look forward to that with relish.”
The SNP’s “independence day” coincides with the first full day of the election campaign for Holyrood.
Ms Sturgeon said: “It’s not the first thing I thought about when I woke up this morning, I was concentrating on the positive SNP campaign for the Scottish election that we’ve started.
“I wish today was the day Scotland became an independent country but people had their say in the referendum and they voted, albeit marginally, for that not to be the case.
“Support for independence in our country remains strong, most polls since the referendum show it’s stronger than polling day, so I’ll continue to make the case that Scotland should be an independent country, but the decision on that will rest with the people of Scotland, exactly where it should rest.”
Speaking at an election event in Edinburgh where she thanked those who voted No, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “Today is an opportunity to thank the more than two million people who voted to keep our country together.
“It’s about reminding the government of the firm decision Scotland made, a decision Nicola Sturgeon promised to respect but is trying desperately to ignore.”