NICOLA Sturgeon will this morning unveil her “next steps” in a major address to mark Brexit and launch her bid to regain EU membership for Scotland as an independent country.

The First Minister will tell an SNP event in Edinburgh that “there is the prospect of a brighter, better future as an equal, independent European nation”.

Her speech comes as a poll published yesterday suggests public opinion is shifting with 51% of voters in Scotland now in favour of independence compared to 49% against.

The First Minister wants to hold a referendum on independence this year – something which was endorsed by MSPs in a vote at Holyrood on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Brexit: What prominent Scots have to say on the day their nation is dragged from the EU

Some 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 ballot, yet Scotland will today exit the bloc on the same terms as leave backing England and Wales. Northern Ireland, which also backed a remain vote, was given a special deal to stay in closer alignment with the EU. The Scottish Government asked for a bespoke arrangement but the UK Government refused to put the option forward for consideration with the European Commission.

“Tonight Scotland will be taken out of the European Union against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland.

“Nothing could more starkly demonstrate how our nation’s needs are no longer served by a broken, discredited Westminster Union,” the First Minister is expected to say.

“But there is the prospect of a brighter, better future as an equal, independent European nation. And today I will lay out the next steps on Scotland’s journey to independence.”

The National:

The First Minister is also expected to underline her party’s success at the General Election when it won 47 out of Scotland’s 59 seats having stood on a manifesto commitment to hold an independence referendum in the second half of this year.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected her request for independence referendum powers to be devolved to Holyrood for a legally-binding vote to take place.

During her speech at Dynamic Earth, she is expected to add: “We have a cast-iron democratic mandate for an independence referendum – and the latest polling shows a majority back Yes.

“Boris Johnson is terrified of the Scottish people having their say but his bid to stand in the way of democracy will not succeed.”

READ MORE: Yes takes the lead in latest indyref YouGov poll

Meanwhile, in Holyrood yesterday Scottish Brexit Secretary Mike Russell told MSPs Scotland will be back in the EU and the remaining members of the bloc should “leave a light on” for the country.

In a statement he said Brexit is now a “desperately sad fact” and urged the UK Government to give Scotland a role in the negotiations to decide Britain’s future relationship with the EU. But he stressed Holyrood ministers are working to get Scotland “back where we belong”.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has announced two of its main buildings – St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh and Victoria Quay in Glasgow – will be lit in the blue and yellow colours of the European flag today. The European flag will also continue to fly at the two Scottish Government buildings, as well as at Holyrood, despite Brexit.

Russell said: “It is a stark fact that tomorrow we leave, dragged out against our will, despite the clear instruction of the Scottish people.

“Scotland has the right to choose its own future and the best option for Scotland is to be an independent country in the EU.”