NICOLA Sturgeon has said there will be a second independence referendum if Scots vote for one at the elections in six weeks.

She made the comments at the final session of First Minister’s Questions yesterday afternoon before the parliament broke up ahead of polling day on May 6.

They came in response to a question from Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory group leader, who had been pressing the First Minister on education issues and an attainment gap between pupils from higher and lower income backgrounds.

Davidson, who is leaving the Scottish Parliament to take up a seat the Lords, asked the First Minister “how many times she would demand an independence referendum before she finally gets around to closing the education gap”.

The First Minister responded: “There will be another independence referendum if the people of Scotland vote for an independence referendum. It is, Presiding Officer, called democracy, which I know is a principle that Ruth Davidson perhaps does not recognise these days as she might have done one day.

“It’s not me, Presiding Officer, that is coming away from responsibility and accountability. I am about to put myself before the people and I will put before the Scottish people my record in office. I will say to the Scottish people where we haven’t made as much progress as we wanted to make and why that is the case.

“And I will put forward a positive case for the future. I will put forward plans which will see us continue to close the attainment gap, continue to support the health service, continue to support economic recovery and, yes, continue to support plans which allow this country to choose its own future.”

A draft bill to hold a second independence referendum in the next parliamentary term was published by the Scottish Government on Monday.

It set out the proposed question and timing of the new vote after the legislation was promised in the Scottish Government’s latest Programme for Government.

Ministers say the draft bill aims to “give people in Scotland the right to decide their future, once the current health crisis is over”.

The proposed question, “should Scotland be an independent country?”, is the same as that posed in 2014. It’s also proposed that voter eligibility be extended to match the franchise at the Holyrood and council elections and that the next Scottish Parliament should decide the timing. According to the document, the new vote could be held as early as the first half of the next parliamentary term.

During the exchanges in the chamber, the First Minister said she has heard of “divisions” among the Tories over its political strategy in recent days.

A question by Davidson on education marked a change of approach to criticisms of the Scottish Government which had focused intensely in the last few weeks on its mishandling of complaints against Alex Salmond.

The Tories failed to oust the First Minister in a vote of no confidence on Tuesday. Sturgeon seized on the opposition party’s change of direction.

“Ruth Davidson has spent weeks misrepresenting me,” she said. “I hear on the grapevine there is lots of division within the Conservative party about their tactics over the last few days.”

A dramatic week has seen Sturgeon cleared of any breach by James Hamilton, the independent adviser on the ministerial code, the publication of a report in the government’s unlawful handling of complaints made against Alex Salmond and a vote of no confidence in the First Minister, which she survived by a significant majority.