NICOLA Sturgeon has said Scots should “thank their lucky stars” that they live in a democracy and can have an open debate on independence.

The First Minister made the comments on Sky News during a discussion on nuclear weapons and the crisis in Ukraine.

Sturgeon said that the SNP are an anti-nuclear party, but added in the wake of the Ukraine invasion would want to be a “constructive member” of Nato after independence, adding that many members of the alliance did not have nuclear weapons.

Broadcaster Sophy Ridge asked the FM: “It's interesting listening to you talk, because you know, you're talking about wanting to be a constructive member of NATO, if of course Scotland did become independent.

“As you say that's not something that the SNP has always agreed on. You say you want to get rid of nuclear weapons, but you want to do it in a responsible way.

“Speaking to you personally, has what's happened in Ukraine changed your thinking at all on some of these big defence issues?”

The First Minister said that she didn’t think anyone would say that the Ukraine situation “hasn’t, if not changed fundamentally, their thinking made them question all sorts of things”.

She added: “I think very carefully about these things, I think trying to get to a world that doesn't have nuclear weapons actually seems to me to be more important now, not less important.

“But one of the things that I have become more certain of is that an independent Scotland for the security of Scotland, but also for the security of our part of the world would need to be a fully constructive member of the NATO alliance. The other thing that I think we should all be reminded of, is how precious democracy is and how important it is for all of us to be prepared to stand up and defend democracy.”

The First Minister added that Putin had been allowed to “get away with too much for too long” and cited the invasion of Crimea.

She added: “I think we've all been reminded that democracy is not something that can just be taken for granted that we've got to protect and defend it and those of us who live in democracies in countries like Scotland, where there is a vigorous and passionate debate about whether or not Scotland should become an independent country.

“We should actually thank our lucky stars that we live in a country where we can debate these things democratically, and decide these things democratically.

“Whatever side we happen to be on, yes or no to Scottish independence, that is something to be celebrated.

“So we are seeing all sorts of things that we've taken for granted since the end of the Cold War now being turned on their heads and all of us have a duty at the European Union. countries within the European Union are rethinking long held positions.

“So none of us are immune from that. But we've got to do that in a way that recognises core principles, but also recognises the importance of countries, independent countries working collaboratively together for the sake of our collective security.”