NICOLA Sturgeon has told MSPs there will be a second independence referendum during the current parliament as she set out plans for the Government's first 100 days in office.

In a statement to Holyrood, the First Minister described the immediate priorities and updated the nation on the pandemic.

She said the decision Scotland takes to stay in the UK or to become independent should be a decision of the people.

"That is why – once the crisis is over – people in Scotland should have the right to make that choice," she said.

"The election result has delivered a substantial majority in this Parliament for an independence referendum within the current term.

"There can be no justification for the UK Government seeking to block that mandate. To do so would suggest that the Tories no longer consider the UK to be a voluntary union of nations. And it would be profoundly undemocratic."

And earlier in her statement she underlined: "We pledged to give people in Scotland a choice over our future when the crisis has passed.

"We were elected on a clear mandate, with a record number of votes, to deliver on those commitments.

"Our most immediate priority is to lead Scotland safely through and out of the pandemic. To that end, we will steer a careful course back to normality. We will support our test and protect teams. 

"We will implement enhanced public health measures, when outbreaks arise. And we will deliver vaccinations as quickly as supplies allow." 

She announced that the Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who she appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery, will today convene the first meeting of the new cross-party steering group on Covid Recovery.

The First Minister set out her government's priority actions, listed among them to:

  • Implement a 4% average pay increase this year for NHS staff. 
  • Open the first 3 rapid diagnostic centres for cancer. 
  • Increase spending on NHS by 20%,
  • Increase direct investment in mental health services by 25% over the course of the Parliament.
  • Take Action on drugs deaths
  • Begin the consultation on legislation to establish a National Care Service. 
  • Continue to work to close the school attainment gap. 
  • Publish the OECD’s report on Scottish education, and start to implement its recommendations.
  • Fund councils for the first phase of our commitment to recruit 3500 more teachers and classroom assistants.

She also unveiled plans to work closer and in a more formal way with the Greens.

"In less than six months, Glasgow is due to host COP26 – the most important discussions to take place in the world this year. 

"And so in our first hundred days, we will publish an indicative national defined contribution – setting out how Scotland will become a net-zero nation by 2045.

"And most significantly - as I can share with Parliament today - since the election, I have had a series of exploratory discussions with the Scottish Green Party about how we might work together more formally in future," she said.

"Initially - even though we were not negotiating a coalition - these discussions were supported through the formation of government facility available to all parties during and immediately after an election. 

"And since the new government was appointed last week, the discussions have been supported by the civil service at my direction." 

She added: "I am pleased to advise Parliament that at a meeting in Bute House last night, I agreed with the Scottish Green Party that we will now move these informal discussions to the next stage. 

"I can confirm that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party will enter structured talks, supported by the civil service, with a view to reaching - if we can - a formal Cooperation Agreement.

"Exactly what the content, extent and scope of any Agreement will be is what the talks will focus on."

She added that "it is not inconceivable that a Cooperation Agreement could lead in future to a Green minister or ministers being part of this government".

She said that compromises on both sides would be required.

"It is perhaps worth noting that neither the Scottish Green Party nor the SNP government are doing this because we need to," she said.

"It is not being forced upon us by Parliamentary arithmetic. Indeed, we are taking a risk that the talks won’t succeed.

"But we are prepared to do so because if we do succeed, the benefits to the country could be significant.

"By working together, we can help build a better future for Scotland."