IN a statement that is sure to heighten the growing feeling among independence supporters that the time is ripe for the second referendum, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday that the choice may have to be made “sooner rather than later”. In a clear reference to Boris Johnson’s activities in No 10 and a potential No-Deal Brexit, the SNP leader said she believes there is a growing sense of urgency for Scotland to become independent in order to avoid being dragged down a political path it does not want to go down.

The First Minister was speaking at an Edinburgh Fringe Festival event yesterday with LBC broadcaster Iain Dale.

She was speaking after a Lord Ashcroft poll suggested that a majority of Scots favour independence, and said that the case for Scotland to become independent is an “entirely optimistic” one.

The First Minister said: “I think there is growing support for independence in Scotland and I think there is, accompanying that, a growing sense of urgency that if we don’t want to get dragged down a path, and I’m not just talking about Brexit here although largely that’s what I mean, but dragged down a sort of political path that we don’t want to go down, then we need to consider becoming independent sooner rather than later.

“Anecdotally, I have been detecting that shift that’s shown up in the Ashcroft poll for quite some time now and I think we are now starting to see that manifest itself in the opinion polls.”

She added: “I think the case for independence is an entirely optimistic one, it’s about being in charge of our future, it’s about making our own luck, owning our own mistakes and learning from them.”

READ MORE: Here's why that phenomenal 52% poll might be UNDERPLAYING Yes support

The First Minister also said that independence supporters would not necessarily have to also support the SNP, stating that voters would be free to choose whichever government they want to have in an independent Scotland. You don’t have to support the SNP to support independence,” said Sturgeon.

“People in an independent Scotland will be able to vote for whichever government they want and if that is a right-of-centre government, then that’s what they’ll elect.

“As it happens, I don’t think it is likely that Scotland would vote for a right-of-centre government, but who knows what will happen in the future.

“If you don’t support the SNP, you don’t have to vote SNP in an independent Scotland, you can vote Labour, Tory, LibDem, whoever.”

READ MORE: SNP figures speak out on Scottish Independence poll

Sturgeon was then asked about her mentor, former First Minister Alex Salmond, being charged with alleged sexual offences – which he strongly denies. “It’s a difficult thing for me to talk about for personal reasons,” she replied. “Much more importantly it’s a difficult thing for me to talk about for legal reasons.”

She admitted to “pain and anguish” over the matter: “Just think about how you would feel – anybody in any walk of life – when somebody has been a really important, dominant person in your life, in my case with Alex for 30 years.

“And suddenly for whatever reason, that relationship is different and you’re not able to have that same relationship. Is there a degree of personal pain and anguish in that? Of course there is.”

She was scathing about Johnson’s visit last week: “I wasn’t overly thrilled to be standing on the steps of Bute House welcoming Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

“I will always be polite to visiting dignitaries, if I can call Boris Johnson a dignitary.”

New Scottish Secretary Alister Jack got similar treatment. The First Minister said: “I didn’t immediately recognise him, so it was kind of, ‘Who are you trying to get in ma hoose?’.”