STEPHEN Flynn has hit back at Unionists who think the SNP "are going to go away" following the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon

Following the First Minister’s announcement on Wednesday, the reaction from many Unionists has been to suggest the independence cause is now lost.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack for example called on the Scottish Government to drop its “divisive obsession with independence”.

Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, the SNP’s Westminster leader said he was aware “many Unionists want to think that the SNP are going to go away now”.

“I’ve got a message for them: we’re not. We want Scotland to be a healthier, fairer and more equal place.

“We want to utilise our energy resources to deliver for the people of Scotland. It’s absurd that in an energy-rich nation, the people of Scotland feel poor”, he explained.

This comes after a poll showed "no electoral impact" on the SNP in both Westminster and Holyrood elections. 

The SNP leadership race to replace Nicola Sturgeon is well underway, with Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan announcing their bids late on Saturday evening.

Elsewhere, Neil Gray ruled himself out, citing his young family and lack of time in the Scottish Government as his reasons.

Flynn added: “We can re-join the European Union as an independent nation and we’re just getting started.”

The party’s Westminster leader has already ruled himself out of the contest to replace Sturgeon, who he described as an “inspiration” on Kuenssberg’s show.

He added that he was "gutted" when he heard the news of her resignation. 

READ MORE: Neil Gray will NOT be running for SNP leadership

He also contested the point that the departing Sturgeon didn’t make a good succession plan.

He said there were a number of individuals in Holyrood with the necessary skills and experience to become the First Minister and would not be drawn on names.

Flynn did say, however, they should have a clear plan on Scottish independence.

Also on the agenda on the BBC’s politics programme was the future of the monarchy with actor Hugh Jackman saying it was “inevitable” Australia would become a republic in the future.

Flynn said that he would be happy for an independent Scotland to keep the UK monarchy but that over time it would be up to the people of Scotland to decide if they wanted to go with an alternative model.

“I’m quite happy with the status quo as it stands but over time it may well be that the people of Scotland decide for an alternative vision but that’ll be for the people of Scotland to determine”, he explained.

Flynn also slammed Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and said exiting the EU had been an “unmitigated disaster”, a claim which was contested by former Tory chief whip Wendy Morton.

The National:

“The issues that are facing our businesses in terms of exports are a result of Brexit, the issues facing our public sector in terms of recruitment of staff are because of Brexit.

“This is why 72% of people in Scotland want to re-join the European Union, that’s where Scotland’s future lies.”

Morton said that it was “not fair” for Flynn to suggest that Brexit had been a “disaster”, citing the vaccine rollout as one of the benefits of leaving the EU.

This comes after Boris Johnson issued a warning to Rishi Sunak amid the Prime Minister’s plans to overhaul Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements.