NICOLA Sturgeon warned the Tory government in Westminster not to deny Scotland a second referendum on independence.

The First Minister, closing the SNP’s conference in Glasgow, repeatedly reassured her party members that voters would soon get to choose between “the ever tightening grip of Westminster control” or Scotland becoming “a hopeful, outward looking independent country”.

“Scotland deserves better,” she said. “And now we have Tory and Labour politicians queuing up to tell us that the decision about Scotland’s future belongs, not to the people, but to Westminster.

“That they will decide if and when we can choose to be independent.

“Well, let us send this message today. You can oppose independence - that is your democratic right, but you cannot, and you will not, deny Scotland’s right to choose.”

The speech was undoubtedly dominated by the constitutional future of Scotland and the UK, with major policy announcements a response to what the SNP leader called the “chaos, incompetence and confusion” of Brexit.

Delegates in the room jumped to their feet when Sturgeon cautioned Brexiteers “itching to open up our NHS as part of a trade deal with Donald Trump”.

“Let us be clear,” she told them, “if you go down that road, prepare for the political fight of your lives.”

That isn’t the only Brexit-related difficulty facing the NHS, the First Minister said, warning that problems recruiting nurses would only become greater after the UK left the EU.

“We need to attract more people into nursing,” she said announcing radical plans to overhaul the bursaries awarded to student nurses.

From next year, the non-means tested award of £6500 will rise to £8100 before jumping up to £10,000 a year in 2020.

The SNP leader said this was in contrast to England where bursaries were scrapped in 2017.

The First Minister then invited “anyone from across the UK attracted to a career in nursing” to “come to Scotland”.

The announcement was welcomed by the Royal College of Nursing.

The First Minister also announced an extra £6.5 million for the charity Social Bite to help vulnerable people with complex needs find a settled place to stay.

This money, Sturgeon told the conference, will help “800 people to be lifted out of homelessness for good”.

To help small to medium sized businesses looking to expand and modernise, she revealed up to £18 million of European cash would be used by the Scottish Government to set up an advanced manufacturing fund.

On independence – which Sturgeon described as the “opposite of Brexit” – there was praise for the thousands of marchers who took to the streets of Edinburgh on Saturday.

The First Minister said she was aware Yes supporters were champing at the bit for her to name the date of a second referendum.

She asked them to wait just a little bit longer.

“As we wait – impatiently, at times, I know – for this phase of negotiations to conclude and for the fog of Brexit to clear, be in no doubt about this.

“The last two years have shown why Scotland needs to be independent, and I am more confident than ever that Scotland will be independent.”

She told delegates that the task for independence supporters was “to step up our work to update and strengthen the case”.

“We must show people that with the powers of independence we can fully realise our country’s vast potential, and take our case to every home, community and workplace across the land. With independence we can turn our wealth and resources into better lives for everyone who lives here.”

The First Minister also said her MPs would vote for another EU referendum, but she warned her party not to “not kid ourselves”.

“There is no guarantee that another vote won’t deliver the same outcome, Scotland choosing to remain but still facing exit against our will.

“Brexit is a serious problem for Scotland. But that is only because of a more fundamental issue, our future is not in our own hands. Scotland’s future is in Westminster’s hands.

“And the only solution to that is to become an independent country.”

Scottish Tory MSP Annie Wells said people had “lost patience with the SNP a long time ago”.

“This was a tired speech from a tired Government which has run out of ideas,” she added.