SNP MSP Alex Neil has called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to declare Scotland's independence if the party wins a majority of seats at the 2021 Holyrood election.

The former health secretary said it was an essential policy in the face of the UK Government saying it will refuse to grant a Section 30 order to hold a second independence referendum.

Writing in The Scottish Sun, Neil said: “What if Westminster keeps saying No?

"The only way to address it is by winning a renewed mandate at the election in 2021 and that mandate should be not just on the back of Brexit and dependant on Brexit happening, it should be a mandate for independence.

"As signatories to the UN Charter, the UK Government could not ignore that.

"It would be very difficult to refuse to negotiate independence if the Scots people have voted for it by a majority."

The First Minister updated the nation on her plans for a second independence referendum on Wednesday.

Ministers are to introduce a bill to allow Holyrood to "protect and progress the option for an independence referendum" within the lifetime of this parliament.

Sturgeon has dismissed statements by Conservative ministers that they will not grant the Section 30 request.

She told the BBC yesterday the UK Government is “clinging to power” with “zero authority or credibility”, adding: “I’m not going to spend too much time bothering about the diktats of a government that I expect will be out of office before too long”.