NICOLA Sturgeon marked the anniversary of the 2014 referendum by throwing down a challenge to supporters of the Union.

Her comments came after Scotland In Union published a poll which the campaign group claimed showed a lack of appetite for independence when it in fact it revealed rising support for a second referendum.

The First Minister tweeted: “If anti-independence campaigners believed the findings of the poll they have published, they’d be clamouring for #indyref2 – but they don’t, which is why they are spending so much time trying to either block it or rig the question.”

Sturgeon also hit out at claims by Better Together politicians that Scots should vote No to ensure the country stayed in the European Union.

Sturgeon was on a visit to Germany, where she had accepted an award presented by the German media for her “responsible and ethical stance against Brexit” and for being “a crucial voice of reason” in the debate.

Reflecting on the anniversary of the referendum, she tweeted: “In #indyref UK politicians told us that independence would see us thrown out of the EU. Today, five years on, I’m in Germany fighting for an EU future that we stand to lose because we are not independent. Scotland’s future belongs in Scotland’s hands.”

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Polling expert John Curtice confirmed that the survey carried out by Survation for Scotland in Union showed growing support for independence and a swing in favour of holding a second vote “sooner rather than later”.

The Strathclyde University politics professor also wrote in his blog, What Scotland Thinks, that research points to support for a referendum growing at virtually the same pace among both Yes and No voters and that it appears to be becoming more difficult to sustain an argument that Scotland does not want a second referendum “anytime soon”.

Curtice said: “There is a consistent pattern across all six poll readings of independence vote intentions published so far this year. On average, they put support for Yes (after leaving aside don’t knows) at 49%, four points up on the figure of 45% in polls conducted in the second half of last year.

“A swing in favour of holding another referendum sooner rather than later is also recorded in a poll undertaken by Survation and published today by the Scotland in Union campaign.

“When, six months ago, voters were presented with a range of options for the timing of another ballot, just 31% opted for holding one within the next five years. Presented with a similar set of options now, 42% express that view. Both Panelbase and YouGov suggest that the swing since last year has occurred at more or less the same pace among those who voted No as it has among those who voted Yes.

In Berlin, where Sturgeon met German Europe minister Michael Roth as well as members of the German Council on Foreign Relations and the German Chambers of Commerce, she stressed that Scotland was an “outward-looking European nation” and pledged to do “everything” in her power to try to halt a possible No-Deal Brexit. She said: “The EU’s fundamental values are ones we cherish – freedom, democracy, the rule of law, equality, and respect for human dignity and human rights. Scotland clearly benefits from EU membership. It is good for our businesses, our universities, and our people – who have the freedom to study, live and work across the continent.

“With the current Brexit deadline approaching it is important that our friends and neighbours in the EU know Scotland remains a committed European nation and that we will continue to work with our EU nations on key issues including tackling the climate emergency.

“At a time when the rule-based international order is under threat, the EU exemplifies the benefits of co-operation and solidarity. For all of these reasons Scotland sees the EU as a natural home.”