NICOLA Sturgeon has made a passionate defence of independence as she faced a tough grilling by the BBC's Andrew Marr.

The First Minister underlined how small nations across the world were thriving as she rebutted conclusions made in a number of reports which appeared to suggest Scotland would not flourish if it left the UK.

"If you look across Europe right now, you look across the world and we see a plethora, a multitude of countries similar in size to Scotland, sometimes smaller than Scotland, lacking all the resources that Scotland has and by and large, almost without exception, these countries are wealthier than Scotland, they are healthier than Scotland, they are happier in terms of the studies that are done," she told the Marr programme this morning.

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She was questioned about an LSE study that suggested leaving the UK and rejoining the EU could reduce Scots' incomes by between 6.3% and 7.7%.

She said: "Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and if you are pointing me to studies that are about Scotland's fiscal position within the United Kingdom then frankly that's not an argument against independence, that is an argument for Scotland being able to take control of her vast resources to make better economic decisions than Westminster governments tend to make on our behalf."

Marr also picked up on a report of an IFS study suggesting Scotland's deficit will be up to a quarter of GDP, she added: "We'll deal with a deficit in the same way almost every other country across the world that has a deficit deals with that: you manage your finances through borrowing [and] through prudent decisions about public spending."

The heated exchanges on the programme took place just 11 days before the election on May 6 with the SNP on course to win a record fourth term in government.

The SNP want Scotland to re-join the EU if the country becomes independent.

Questions have been raised on what will be the border arrangements between an independent Scotland in the EU and the UK out of the bloc.

Speaking to Marr, the First Minister accepted there would have to be a border between England and an independent Scotland but insisted businesses and trade would not "suffer" because of it.

The SNP leader said Scotland would try to negotiate arrangements to "keep trade flowing easily across the border" if it becomes independent and rejoins the European Union.

The First Minister said an independent Scotland would "comply with all of the requirements of EU membership" when asked about European Union regulations, customs checks and inspections of goods entering the single market.

She said: "We will put in place arrangements and we will negotiate those arrangements for the UK that means that businesses do not, in a practical sense, suffer from any of that."

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Under EU rules, consignments of animals and goods need to be physically inspected before entering the EU's single market, including 30% of poultry, eggs, milk and fish, and all live animals.

Sturgeon added: "I'm not denying that because of the absurdity of Brexit and the Tory Brexit obsession, then all sorts of issues are raised for Scotland completely against our democratic will.

"What I'm saying is we will work as a country to make sure that for our businesses there is no difficulties in terms of their day-to-day experience in trading."

She continued: "Before we get to a point where we're asking people to choose whether or not they want Scotland to become independent – which is the choice of the Scottish people – just as we did in 2014, we will set out all of the implications of independence, all of the advantages of independence, and all the practical issues that people have to consider so that people make an informed choice."

She defended the absence of any analysis on the financial impact of independence and said it would be "to put the cart rather before the horse" ahead of another vote.

Following the interview, Labour's shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray said: "With economists warning Scotland is headed for a jobs crisis it is reckless beyond imagining to call for a referendum during our recovery.

"Hearing the casual way with which Nicola Sturgeon dismisses those independent experts that she is so fond of quoting when they agree with her and her failure to answer any of the tough questions on separation - from effects on income to the border - is playing fast and loose with people's futures.

"Scotland deserves better than this. Scottish Labour is opposed to independence and a second referendum."