NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted Scotland is "even more prepared for independence than we were in 2014" as she set out her Government’s first key document setting out the case to build a "wealthier, fairer Scotland".

Ms Sturgeon said it was “time now to set out and debate” the case for Scotland to leave the UK.

Speaking as she launched her first document analysing how an independent Scotland could operate, the First Minister said: “After everything that has happened, Brexit, Covid, Boris Johnson, it is time to set out a different and better vision.

“It is time to talk about making Scotland wealthier and fairer. It is time to talk about independence and then make that choice.”

Ms Sturgeon insisted when she was re-elected as First Minister last May it was on a “clear commitment to give the people of Scotland the choice of becoming an independent country”.

She highlighted that Holyrood had a “decisive majority” of MSPs in favour of independence.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Parliament therefore has an indisputable democratic mandate.”

The First Minister stressed that "Scotland will only become independent when a majority of those who live here vote for it".

She said that more papers to be published including on EU membership, defence, currency and the economy that will "set out how Scotland can benefit from the opportunities, the massive opportunities, that indpendence will present".

Ms Sturgeon said that her Government will "not shy away from the tough questions".

She said: "We will address key issues related to the transition from a yes vote to independence and the infrastructure that will be required for the governance of an independent country.  

"Scotland has already come a long way since 2014. A great deal of nation-building has been done in the years since."

The FM added: "For example, Scotland though has own tax and social security agencies, an independent fiscal commission and a national investment bank.  

"In other words, substantial parts of the infrastructure that an independent Scotland will need and which did not exist in 2014 are now in place.

"That means Scotland today is even more prepared for independence than we were in 2014."  

The First Minister acknowledged that the “competence” of the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a re-run of the 2014 referendum is “contested”.

Ms Sturgeon said she had made clear to Boris Johnson today that she is “ready to discuss the terms of such an order at any time”.

She added that Scotland “must forge a way forward if necessary, without a section 30 order”, which the UK Government used to allow a referendum in 2014.

But Ms Sturgeon insisted that “we must do so in a lawful manner” and will “give a significant update” to Holyrood on her plans “very soon”.

She added: “Scotland, like countries across the world, faces significant challenges.

“But we also have huge advantages and immense potential. The refreshed case for independence is about how we equip ourselves to navigate the challenges and fulfil that potential, now and in future.

“In their day-to-day lives, people across Scotland are suffering the impacts of the soaring cost of living, low growth and increasing inequality, constrained public finances and the many implications of a Brexit we did not vote for.

“These problems have all been made worse or, most obviously in the case of Brexit, directly caused by the fact we are not independent.

“So at this critical juncture we face a fundamental question. Do we stay tied to a UK economic model that consigns us to relatively poor economic and social outcomes which are likely to get worse, not better, outside the EU?

“Or do we lift our eyes, with hope and optimism, and take inspiration from comparable countries across Europe?”

Scottish Greens co-leader and Scottish Government minister, Patrick Harvie, claimed that Scotland has its "hands tied by the limits of the Devolution Settlement".

He pressed he case for an independent Scotland to be "charting a different future", warning that "we are being held back" by the Union.