NICOLA Sturgeon has said independence supporters can be “safely assured” of an explicit commitment to indyref2 in the SNP manifesto for next year’s Holyrood election.

The First Minister also described people questioning her commitment to independence as “bonkers” and confirmed her intention to serve another full-term if elected again in 2021.

She said the SNP is a “very strong” position and support for independence will continue to grow if “we keep doing right by the people of Scotland”

But she called on the party not to become preoccupied with “internal disputes or feuds or personality clashes”, warning that this could lead to disillusionment among voters.

A string of opinion polls has shown an increase in support for independence, with backing for a Yes vote rising to 54% last month.

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Sturgeon said: “I’ve spent my entire adult life campaigning for Scottish independence, I believe in Scottish independence with every fibre of my being, I also believe that Scotland is going to be independent sooner rather than later and I’m also the SNP leader that now presides over support for Scottish independence.

“Let’s just say I’m pretty comfortable in my own commitment to independence and other people can question it if they want, but I think it’s bonkers.

“The SNP is in a position of strength that parties the world over would love to be in and we’ve got as a party to recognise that we don’t exist in some kind of bubble, we are the governing party of Scotland.

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“Right now the majority of the people in the country we serve are worried about their health, they’re worried about their jobs, they’re worried about their ability to pay their bills.

“Opinion polls would suggest they massively trust the SNP to lead them through that crisis – if they ever thought the SNP was turning away from that priority, and focusing on its own agendas and engaging in infighting, I’m sure they would pass a verdict on that.”

A poll last month found that 74% of Scots believe the SNP leader has carried out a good job of handling the Covid-19 pandemic.

The party is also on course for a landslide in the Scottish Parliament elections next year, with one recent poll predicting the SNP could gain an additional nine seats.

Sturgeon said her message to her party would be that “we are in a very strong position” which has been earned.

“If we keep doing right by the people of Scotland as we have done and keep steering them in the right direction then we will continue to see I think growing support for the party,” she said. “But also for that objective that we all believe so strongly in – which is Scotland becoming an independent country.

“But focus on what matters to people out there and don’t ever get into the trap of focusing on our own preoccupations – that is not a description of independence obviously – but internal disputes or feuds or personality clashes.

“Nothing I think disillusions the electorate more than that.”

SNP MP Pete Wishart yesterday tweeted that every supporter of independence should listen to the interview adding: “She is absolutely spot on”.

The SNP has recently faced tensions over decisions by the party’s National Executive Committee on selection of election candidates, including a ruling that MPs had to step down from Westminster before standing for Holyrood.

This led to MP Joanna Cherry reversing a plan to stand as an MSP for Edinburgh Central over what she called an “unreasonable” demand.

Sturgeon defended the NEC, saying the move was “not about excluding one person”.

She said: “This is a decision the NEC took which was not about barring a Westminster MP standing for Holyrood but saying that if you were selected as a Holyrood candidate then in enough time before the election, you have to demit your Westminster seat in order to allow the by-election to be on the same day as the Holyrood election.

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“The NEC I think wanted to guard against the possibility of lots of Westminster MPs deciding to stand and then create a whole slew of by-elections.

“It’s not an illegitimate decision for the NEC to have taken, I appreciate that people will see in the context of other things, but that’s the decision they took.”

Meanwhile the SNP warned the UK Government has “no mandate” to block Scottish democracy after new Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross MP said a pro-independence majority next year will not secure a referendum.

During a trip to Scotland on Friday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak also said “now is not the time” to be talking about constitutional issues.

SNP MSP George Adam said: “Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings have no mandate whatsoever to block Scottish democracy.

“The unionists are panicked, and they are becoming increasingly desperate to try and stop voters having their say – inventing all sorts of fresh barriers to stop Scotland’s democratic will.

“No wonder more and more Scots believe Scotland’s future is best served as an independent country.”