Nicola Sturgeon has said the general election is largely about whether people support or oppose independence, while claiming that only her party can stop Theresa May having a “free hand”.
The First Minister claimed in an interview last month that the election was not about “deciding whether or not Scotland is independent”.
But she has since confirmed that SNP votes on June 8 will be used to press for “indyref2”.
During a campaign visit to a nursery in Insch, Aberdeenshire, on Monday, she reinforced that position, saying: “The issue at the heart of this election is, whether you support independence or oppose independence, surely that decision should be taken by people in Scotland, by the Scottish people and the Scottish Parliament, and not by a Tory government at Westminster."
Ms Sturgeon, who was joined by her predecessor Alex Salmond, also claimed the SNP would provide a check on Conservative power at Westminster.
She added: "We're here at a nursery highlighting the SNP's policy to almost double state-funded childcare provision, helping young people get the best start in life and helping working families.
"That stands in stark contrast to the Conservatives who are taking child tax credits and working tax credits away from many working families, making their lives harder.
"We know Theresa May wants a free hand to do whatever she wants. We've got to make sure that there's a check on the Tories, that there's strong opposition and strong voices for Scotland standing up for progressive policies like this one, and that in Scotland can only come from the SNP."
James Kelly, Scottish Labour’s election campaign manger, said Ms Sturgeon had confirmed the worst kept secret in Scottish politics, adding: “This general election, just like any election, is only about a divisive second independence referendum for the SNP.
“Alex Salmond let the cat out of the bag last week, and now his successor has admitted that the SNP will use this election to try to force an unwanted second referendum on Scotland.
“It's time for the Nationalists to focus on the job of governing, such as dealing with the crisis in our schools and tackling the problems in the NHS after a decade of SNP mismanagement.”
Willie Rennie leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said that while the First Minister focussed on independence, education and health were being allowed to fail.
“Despite her protestations that she wants to talk about other things, today’s admission from the First Minister will surprise no one,” he added.
“Independence was her key issue at the last election, it was her key issue the day after the EU referendum vote last year and it is still her key issue today.
“For the First Minister it has never been about education, the health service or even Brexit; these are all just convenient vehicles.
“Sadly while she has been focused on independence, Scotland’s position in the international education rankings has plummeted and children have been waiting more than a year for mental health treatment.”