NICOLA Sturgeon gave a rousing speech calling for equality for the LGBT+ community at last night’s Rainbow Honours awards.

The former first minster was named Celebrity Ally of the Year at a ceremony in London on Wednesday evening.

She started her acceptance speech by saying that she was delighted to be joined by her “travelling squad of Scottish lesbians”.

“Everyone should have a travelling squad of Scottish lesbians, that’s just a bit of free advice for everybody in the room”, Sturgeon added.

She continued: “This is a celebration but it is a celebration as we have heard from others this evening that comes with a moment of reflection and perhaps a moment of warning.

“There are two things I want to say you to this evening and I know you don’t need to hear this from me but I’m going to say it anyway.

“Firstly, the progress towards equality is not linear, it is not one-directional, it can go backwards as well as forwards and this is a moment when we must be strong in making sure it continues to go forwards.

“We must do that in a united manner. We must not never, ever give in to the attempts to divide and rule.”

Sturgeon’s remarks come in the same week that new research found the UK is going “backwards” on transgender rights while other European countries make progress.

Researchers argued that anti-trans hatred has seeped into the UK Government’s agenda and in the media across the UK, pushing it down the Trans Rights Index.

Sturgeon continued: “I have, or it feels as if I have said this in Scotland until I am blue in the face. Let’s see if it ultimately proves to be effective but I will not stop saying it ever.

“My rights as a woman are not diminished in any way shape or form by the enhancement of the rights of trans men and women.

“Never let anyone tell you otherwise. This is a moment for unity, a moment for solidarity, a moment for strength and for courage.

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“This room tonight exemplifies courage often in the face of adversity. The last thing I would say this evening with honour and a great deal of privilege and humility in accepting this award is that as for as long as there is a breath in my body, and I hope that is for some time yet to come, I will always be an ally.

“A strong, unflinching, unequivocal ally.”