Nicola Sturgeon is opening the SNP annual conference today with a call to her party to show that Scotland is ready to be independent.

The party conference is online event this year because of Covid lockdown restrictions.

Following recent opinion polls showing a lead for independence the SNP leader will use her opening remarks delivered by video link to say independence is in sight.

Ms Sturgeon who also make her main, closing speech on Monday will say that Covid is the priority just now but that independence comes next.

The SNP will put independence and a second referendum at the centre of its Scottish Parliament election campaign next year.

Ms Sturgeon is expected to say: “The question for all of us as we look ahead to the election next May is this: who should be taking the decisions that will shape our futures?

“We know that it is the people who live here, wherever they come from, who can best harness Scotland’s immense human and natural resources to the benefit of everyone.

“So this weekend, and over the next few months, let us reach out – to all of Scotland – like never before.

“Let us demonstrate – with cool heads and with patient persuasion – that Scotland is ready to take its place in the global family of independent nations.

“Scotland is now a nation on the cusp of making history. Independence is in clear sight – and with unity of purpose, humility and hard work I have never been so certain that we will deliver it.”

Opposition parties have criticised the SNP for its focus on independence when the country and the world is still trying to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Anas Sarwar, Labour’s constitution spokesman said: “This proves that Nicola Sturgeon only has one priority – dividing the people of Scotland.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, when people are losing their jobs and saying goodbye to loved ones, it is insulting that she wants to focus on independence.

“Nicola Sturgeon is not listening to the people of Scotland who want her to prioritise the NHS, education and the economy.

“All politicians should be focused on pulling our people together and rebuilding our country.”

Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservatives leader said: Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “We are still counting the cost – and the deaths – from Covid and the SNP’s top brass are shamelessly demanding another independence referendum as soon as possible..

“It would be beyond reckless for Nicola Sturgeon to drag civil servants away from dealing with the pandemic, or from rebuilding after we get on top of this virus, to focus instead on propping up holes in the nationalist campaign.”

The conference ends on Monday.