NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted it is time to go out and grab independence “with both hands”, as Scotland ’s ability to choose its future is put “on the ballot paper” in the General Election.

The First Minister, addressing a rally hosted by The National yesterday, said the country now stands at a crossroads, with the prize of independence within “touching distance”.

She called on Scots to seize that prize in order to build a better, more outward looking, prosperous and inclusive country that “all of us believe in our hearts is possible”.

Around 20,000 people attended the rally – filling Glasgow’s George Square with Saltires and EU flags – as figures from across the independence movement gave speeches.

WATCH: Nicola Sturgeon addresses our #indyref2020 event

It was the first time Sturgeon had spoken at an independence rally since 2014. She told the Sunday National the huge crowd was “incredible” and urged campaigners to turn the energy of the day into something “much bigger” for the election.

Addressing the rally after being introduced by Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken, Sturgeon said: “This General Election is the most important in our lifetimes.

“We must come out in our numbers and vote in this election, vote to escape the chaos and the misery and the division of Brexit and vote to put Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands.

“That is the message that must ring out across our country.”

The FM called on supporters to inspire others with a “positive message of everything an independent Scotland can be” as she prepares to lead them to an independence referendum next year.

“All of us must make sure over these next few weeks we persuade everyone we know – our family, our friends, our neighbours, our workmates, to come out on December 12 and send the biggest, loudest most resounding message to Westminster,” she said.

“It is time for Scotland to choose our own future, it is time for Scotland to be an independent country.

“An independent country that will be the best of friends and family with our friends and neighbours across the British Isles, across Europe, and across the world.

“That, my friends, is the Scotland we seek – so let’s go out there and grab it with both hands.”

WATCH: 20,000 independence supporters cheer for Nicola Sturgeon

Sturgeon warned one path Scotland could face is a future dictated by Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, where tax cuts for the wealthy would take priority over people and public services.

She also said the alternative should not be a UK Labour government which “can’t make up its mind on Brexit”.

“The days when Scotland has to make do with a choice of the lesser of two evils – these days must come to an end,” she added.

Sturgeon also issued a direct challenge to Johnson and Corbyn to debate her after it was revealed the first televised election debate, proposed by ITV, is set to include only the Tory and Labour leaders.

The National: Photograph: Colin MearnsPhotograph: Colin Mearns

“Why are you so scared to have real debate in this election?” she said.

“My message and my challenge is this – I’ll debate either of you, I will debate both of you any time, any place. So stop running scared and come and justify why Scotland should not be independent.”

READ MORE: The National's #indyref2020 rally: The Yes movement speaks

Speaking to the Sunday National after the rally, Sturgeon praised the Glasgow crowd both in terms of the scale and enthusiasm.

She said: “If we can get that enthusiasm to around Scotland over the next six weeks then I think that message about taking Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands will be irresistible and unstoppable.

“I think that is the important message from the day – this election is a big opportunity.

“But we will only seize that opportunity if we really motivate and encourage and persuade people who either want independence already, or who at least believe it should be Scotland’s choice to come out on December 12 and vote.”

Sturgeon said even if people were not yet convinced of the case for independence, they should not be denied the chance to have their say by a Westminster government.

She added: “So this is about who decides Scotland’s future – in a sense, that is what is on the ballot paper on December 12.

“Do we allow our future to be decided by Boris Johnson et al or do we determine that we want to decide that future for ourselves?”

The First Minister has said she will formally seek a Section 30 order for indyref2 in a “matter of weeks”.

But she said: “I am not going to speculate on what I do if Westminster parties take not just an undemocratic position, an anti-democratic position.

“They seem to be saying to the people of Scotland at the start of an election campaign, we don’t care how you vote, we are going to ignore you.

“That is not acceptable – so the question should be for them, not for me, what gives you the right if Scotland comes out and demands an independence referendum, what do you think gives you the right to stand in its way?”

The SNP leader added: “Everyone knows there is going to be an independence referendum in Scotland, even the Tories and Labour know it, that is why they have turned their attention to what the question is going to be. Everybody knows it and we have a chance in December to make sure that demand is unequivocal and irresistible.”