Nicola Sturgeon has said her Government will soon start refreshing the “very positive case” for Scottish independence, as she insisted recent election results showed there is a “growing sense that the UK in its current state is not serving the needs of Scotland. Wales, or Northern Ireland”.

The Scottish First Minister spoke out after Sinn Fein won the most seats, 27 out of 90, in last week’s Stormont elections.

This entitles Sinn Fein to have one of its representatives take up the post of First Minister there – which would be the first time a non-unionist politician has held Northern Ireland’s top post.

Meanwhile, local government elections in Scotland saw the SNP emerge again as the winners, with Ms Sturgeon’s party securing more seats on councils than any other party.

While Ms Sturgeon stressed there were “different factors at play” in the elections in Scotland and Northern Ireland, she claimed it was now “obviously the case that there are very big fundamental questions being asked in every part of the UK, about UK governance in the years ahead”.

She added: “I think there’s a growing sense that the UK in its current state is not serving the needs of Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland or perhaps even England appropriately.

“And I think we will see big changes in the years to come and I’m convinced one of those changes will be Scottish independence.”

Nicola Sturgeon congratulated Sinn Fein and its vice president Michelle O’Neill (pictured) on a ‘truly historic’ result (Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

She congratulated Sinn Fein, which supports a united Ireland, on its success, with Ms Sturgeon saying: “For them to become the largest party in Northern Ireland is, as you know, a development of truly historic proportions.”

But she also stressed the importance of parties at Stormont “coming together, working together”, and  getting the Northern Irish Executive up and running again.

The Scottish First Minister and SNP leader hailed her own party’s success in the local elections as “astonishing”, saying it was “really quite something” to have such a result after 15 years in power in Edinburgh.

Ms Sturgeon insisted a mandate for a second independence referendum had been won in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, which saw the SNP and the pro-independence Scottish Greens win a majority of seats at Holyrood, with both parties pledging to have a vote on the issue in this parliamentary term.

Ms Sturgeon noted that both the SNP and the Greens had increased their share of the vote in last week’s council elections, as she said work towards a second referendum would continue.

Asked for when a Bill for a future independence referendum could be brought before the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister said she would “set that out in due course”.

Any such legislation, however, is almost certain to face legal challenge from the UK Government, who are opposed to the holding of such a vote.

Ms Sturgeon also said her Government would start to set out white papers for independence “in the very near future”.

It has been almost a decade since the previous independence white paper, which contained more than 700 pages, was published, with the First Minister promising the new paper would be “refreshing” and put the “very positive case for independence”.

However, Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK campaign group, Scotland in Union, said: “The problem for the SNP is that the positive case for leaving the UK doesn’t exist.

“As part of the UK we can pool and share resources and risk, ensuring we can invest more in our NHS, schools and local services, while helping businesses to grow and create jobs.

“Rather than building barriers between friends and families, Scotland’s best days are ahead of us if we work to bring communities together – not tear them apart.

“Nicola Sturgeon should change the record and focus on what really matters to people.”