NICOLA Sturgeon has told Boris Johnson in a phone call that a second independence referendum is "a matter of when not if" in the wake of the SNP’s historic election win.

The First Minister made the point when she spoke today to the Prime Minister who last night congratulated her on her party's victory and invited her to a summit on recovery from the pandemic.

A statement released tonight by a spokeswoman for the First Minister said: "The First Minister spoke to the Prime Minister this afternoon, and thanked him for his congratulations on her re-election.

The National:

"The First Minister made clear that her immediate focus was on steering the country through Covid and into recovery, and that a newly elected Scottish Government would work with the UK government as far as possible on that aim.

"They also agreed the importance of the two governments working together closely and constructively to achieve a successful hosting of and outcome from COP26.

"The FM also re-iterated her intention to ensure that the people of Scotland can choose our own future when the crisis is over, and made clear that the question of a referendum is now a matter of when – not if.”

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Downing Street said Johnson finished his call with the SNP leader by "emphasising the importance of focusing on Covid recovery at this time". The report by Number 10 made no mention of any constitutional issues.

Earlier yesterday, Sturgeon posed outside her official Bute House residence in Edinburgh, saying she was already “back at work”.

The SNP won the election with 64 MSPs, and Holyrood will have a pro-independence majority with eight Scottish Greens also elected.

In her victory speech, Sturgeon said Scotland had voted for a second independence referendum and declared it “the will of the people”.

The National: SNP majority still uncertain, despite Nicola Sturgeon’s party making gains

Speaking from the count at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, she said in a televised address: “Let’s be clear about what Scotland voted for on Thursday.

“The people of Scotland have voted to give pro-independence parties a majority in the Scottish Parliament – the final tally is not yet known, but it looks likely that the pro-independence majority will be larger in this parliament than in the last one.

“The SNP and Scottish Greens both stood on a clear commitment to an independence referendum within the next parliamentary term.

“And both of us said that the timing of a referendum should be decided by a simple majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

“So in no way is a referendum just the demand of me or the SNP.

“It is a commitment made to the people by a majority of the MSPs who will take their seats in our national parliament next week.

“Usually, and by the normal standards of democracy, parties are expected to deliver on the commitments they make in elections, not face attempts to block them from doing so.

“Given the outcome of this election, there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future.

“If there is such an attempt it will demonstrate conclusively that the UK is not a partnership of equals and that – astonishingly – Westminster no longer sees the UK as a voluntary union of nations.

“That in itself would be a very powerful argument for independence.”

The First Minister has agreed to attend the Covid recovery summit organised by the Prime Minister, who has also invited the leaders of the devolved governments in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Among the first tasks faced by the First Minister in the new Scottish Government will be to review Covid-19 restrictions tomorrow, as the latest figures showed there had been no deaths from the virus in the previous 24 hours.

She told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show she would be meeting clinical advisers over the next 24 hours.

Sturgeon explained: “We have a Covid review on Tuesday where we will set out the final decisions for the next easing of restrictions scheduled for May 17.”

She will also have to re-shuffle her team of ministers after a number of senior SNP figures have stepped down from Holyrood.

They include Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, Michael Russell, the Constitution Affairs Secretary, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell, and Roseanna Cunningham, the Environment Secretary.

There is speculation that former SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson, who has been elected as MSP for Edinburgh Central, may be appointed to a role in government.

It is also still not clear whether the SNP will govern as a minority administration, as they did in the last parliament, or form a coalition with the Scottish Greens.

The party lead by Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater – both of whom have seats in Holyrood – supported the SNP in key votes, including the budget and in confidence motions brought by the Tories against the First Minister and her deputy John Swinney in the last parliament.

On an independence referendum, Sturgeon has said she wants one before the end of 2023, preferably with the agreement of the Prime Minister.

But if he doesn’t agree she would press ahead with plans to hold one using Holyrood legislation.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said yesterday the PM would refuse a Section 30 order request from the First Minister for a second independence vote.

He also said the Lord Advocate should block a Holyrood bill to hold a new referendum, arguing it was outwith the powers of the parliament.