SINN Fein’s vice-president has said she was “delighted” to meet Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House and vows to strengthen Scotland and Northern Ireland’s ties.

Michelle O’Neill was in Bute House, the First Minister’s official Edinburgh residence, on Friday to discuss shared areas of interest including the Northern Ireland Protocol and cost-of-living crisis.

The pair smiled and shook hands outside of the main door as Sturgeon welcomed O’Neill to the city.

The National:

Following the talks, O’Neill said: "I was delighted to visit Scotland today to meet Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to discuss a number of shared priorities and to update her on political developments at Stormont. 

“The historic bonds between Scotland and the island of Ireland go back centuries.

“We enjoy a long and enduring affinity, as close neighbours and good friends.

“Moving forward I am determined to strengthen the bond that ties us – politically, culturally and economically - so that our administrations can work together in our shared interests through strong intergovernmental relations.”

Meanwhile, Sturgeon thanked O'Neill for reaching out to arrange the talks - calling the meeting an "excellent opportunity" to discuss shared opportunities between Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

“It was a particularly timely conversation which provided an update on the ongoing developments around establishing the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive following elections earlier this month," she said.

Sturgeon went on: “Intergovernmental relations are essential when it comes to tackling shared challenges and it is clear that much more needs to be done by the UK Government to ensure a rapid and effective response to the devastating cost of living crisis facing households across these islands. No one should ever have to make a choice between heating and eating.

“Today’s meeting was a further example of the close relationship between Scotland and Northern Ireland. In that spirit, I have written today to the leaders of the DUP and Alliance parties with an offer to meet to discuss these important matters.”

Both Sinn Fein and the SNP secured record victories in the local elections this month.

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O’Neill’s party became the largest in Northern Ireland, winning 27 seats and pushing the DUP into second place.

The party’s vice-president is now set to become first minister, but the process to establish the executive has been troubled.

The DUP is currently blocking the re-establishment of Stormont’s power-sharing institutions in protest at the post-Brexit protocol, which has created economic barriers on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

O’Neill travelled to Scotland from Belfast after attending a meeting to discuss solving the impasse with other party leaders and Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin.

READ MORE: Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill vows to strengthen the ‘bonds of friendship’ with Scotland

Speaking earlier Martin had accused the UK Government of moving “too far in a unilateral way” over the protocol.

He told the BBC: “I spoke to Boris Johnson and I have to nail this, this idea that somehow the European Union is being inflexible on this is just not the truth, it doesn’t stack up.

“What has happened now is a certain unilateralism on behalf of the British Government saying ‘our way or no way’ and you don’t negotiate with the European Union on that basis, particularly when you have signed off on the agreement that you now don’t like.

“Professional, serious negotiations between the United Kingdom Government and the European Union is the only way to resolve this.

“I believe that the current UK Government has moved too far in a unilateral way on issues, be it legacy, be it the protocol.

“In my view that is not fully in accordance with the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement which involves collaboration, working together.”

READ MORE: Sinn Fein's victory offers food for thought on Scotland's colonial legacy

O’Neill accused the DUP of “denying democracy” by refusing to enter government in Northern Ireland.

O’Neill said: “At a time where democracy is being denied, at a time where the DUP are continuing to prevent the facilitation of an executive being formed, an executive that could start to deliver for the public, I think it is important that he is here to assert his role and to listen to all of the parties.

“There are parties here that want to be in government together, there are parties that want to be in the executive but unfortunately the DUP, sponsored by the British Government, are holding back all of that progress and preventing us from being able to start to put money in people’s pockets.”