NICOLA Sturgeon has fired the starting gun on a fresh independence drive after Covid, saying now is the time for a new discussion focusing on “raising Scotland’s ambition”.

The First Minister pledged an ­updated prospectus outlining the case for leaving the UK will begin to be published “shortly”.

She previously said she wants to hold a referendum before the end of 2023, on condition that the Covid ­crisis is over.


Writing exclusively in the Sunday National today, she said the Scottish Government was “committed to offering that choice, and ensuring that it will be a fully informed one”.

“To that end, we will shortly begin publishing an updated prospectus on the opportunities that independence can offer Scotland,” she said.

“A prospectus that, yes, is up front about the challenges – but also one that does not shy away from the ­immense opportunities of independence. That’s because we really should be optimistic about Scotland’s future. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world – the combination of natural resources, a ­highly-educated population, and a competitive edge in some of the global sectors of the ­future are almost incomparable.”

She added: “With this new independence discussion, we will be raising Scotland’s ambition. Too often, political debate in Scotland seems dominated by how we mitigate the damage inflicted upon us by ­Westminster, when in fact we should be deciding how we manage and ­develop our extraordinary assets to build a better nation.”

Sturgeon, who tested positive for Covid on Friday, will reach the ­landmark this week of becoming Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister, overtaking her predecessor Alex Salmond. In May, the SNP won their 11th successive election in a row, with 450 councillors elected across Scotland – a gain of 23 seats on the 2017 result.

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Sturgeon outlined the steps the Scottish Government has taken to help Scotland recover from the pandemic since the SNP also won the Holyrood election last year and said work had also taken place over the past few years to build the ­“foundations for a successful ­independent state”.

She said: “These policies are ­undoubtedly making Scotland a ­better country to live in.

“Piece by piece, they are building a new Scotland.

And this, of course, begs a very ­important question.

“If we have been able to use the existing devolved powers to take significantly better decisions for Scotland, what more could we be achieving with the powers that remain in the hands of the Tories at Westminster?

“What would Scotland be like today had we not been dragged out of the EU against our will, if we did not have Boris Johnson as Prime ­Minister, and if we were not living with a Tory government which has responded to the cost of living crisis with little more than indifference, ­inaction and insults?”

She also argued there was a need for debate over the constitution, despite issues such as the cost of living crisis.

Sturgeon recounted how “powerless” people felt against Thatcherism during the “tough times” of the 1980s.

“There were many people – as there are today – who did not want us to raise our ambitions,” she wrote.

“They did not want us to debate our constitutional future; to dare consider whether we could do better than Westminster control.

“But if we had listened back then to those who tried to shut down ­constitutional debate, where would we be now?”

She said a new discussion on the constitution was vital in a rapidly changing world in which there is no “status quo”.

She added: “The only certainty is that it is better for us to have as much control over our own lives as possible; to not simply have to hope against hope – and against all previous evidence to the contrary – that Westminster will take the right ­decisions for us.”