Nicola Sturgeon was tonight blasted by her political rivals over plans to pull Scotland out of the United Kingdom, as she stood firm on her pledge for a fresh independence vote. 

The First Minister was accused of attempting to ‘reopen old wounds’ by opposition leaders in a lively television debate ahead of next month’s Scottish election.

The SNP leader has pledged to hold a new independence referendum if her party wins the election – with or without the consent of the UK parliament.

But the leaders of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour tonight took aim at her plans, branding them as ‘divisive’.

Nicola Sturgeon was tonight blasted by her political rivals over plans to pull Scotland out of the United Kingdom, as she stood firm on her pledge for a fresh independence vote

The First Minister was accused of attempting to 'reopen old wounds' by opposition leaders in a lively television debate ahead of next month's Scottish election.

The First Minister was accused of attempting to 'reopen old wounds' by opposition leaders in a lively television debate ahead of next month's Scottish election.

The First Minister was accused of attempting to ‘reopen old wounds’ by opposition leaders in a lively television debate ahead of next month’s Scottish election.

All three of the leaders instead insisted the focus should remain on the country's recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic

All three of the leaders instead insisted the focus should remain on the country's recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic

All three of the leaders instead insisted the focus should remain on the country’s recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic

All three of the leaders instead insisted the focus should remain on the country’s recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.

More than 7,000 people in Scotland have died of the virus, while more than 220,000 cases have been recorded.

However the nationalist leader hit back at the suggestions, as she urged Scots to back its independence bid with their votes.

Taking a swipe at Westminster politicians, she said she wanted the country to build back ‘in its own image’, rather than ‘that of Boris Johnson and his band of Brexiteers’. 

The Green party meanwhile backed Ms Sturgeon’s referendum calls – as it stood firm on its desires to return Scotland to the EU.

However there was no mention from the leaders of Alex Salmond – whose Alba party will contest Holyrood seats at the upcoming election.

Despite facing criticism from the majority of her rival leaders, Ms Sturgeon remained firm on her pledge to hold a new independence referendum. 

She led with her offer of ‘continued strong leadership to steer the country through the pandemic’, adding that ‘when the crisis is over’ Scots should have ‘the choice of a better future with independence’.

But she was accused of spreading division by Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, who said: ‘You are determined to open the wounds of the country. 

‘This is reckless. What you should do is focus on making people’s lives better.’

Conservative leader Douglas Ross also hit out at the plans, which he described as ‘reckless’ and ‘divisive’.

Labour’s Anas Sarwar meanwhile showed his opposition to the independence vote, as he urged a focus on recovery in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

The Labour leader also joined Mr Rennie in taking a swipe at Ms Strugeon’s seven years as First Minister.

Mr Rennie said Ms Sturgeon had been in charge as the country’s drug death rate soared to the highest in Europe, as he tackled her on her healthcare record. 

Mr Ross accused her of failing to meet promises made in key areas.

The Tory leader told her: ‘You have made promises on the attainment gap, victims’ rights, broadband, ferries, income tax and the treatment time guarantee.

‘You have delivered your promises on none of them. You have let down Scotland for the last 14 years.’

He continued his attack by saying: ‘Now in an economic crisis, you want to wreck Scotland’s recovery.’

Ms Sturgeon said ‘progress’ had been made in tackling the attainment gap in schools and NHS waiting times had been reducing before Covid-19 hit. 

Defending her record, she added: ‘I am proud of the record of the Government I have led.’ 

‘Like all governments we make mistakes, and we get things wrong and we do not shy away from putting it right and learning the lessons.’

Mr Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, pressed her on her record on education – noting she had previously said closing the attainment gap in schools would be her top priority.

‘We haven’t done that yet,’ Ms Sturgeon conceded.

She said this was linked to the pandemic, stating that ‘Covid has upended almost every aspect of life here in Scotland’.

She accepted there was ‘more to do’, urging people to ‘elect me to be First Minister to continue to build on the progress we are making’.

The Green Party’s co-leader Patrick Harvie kept his focus on environmental issues, as he urged voters to side with his party.

He warned that the election could be the ‘last chance’ to make a difference before it is ‘too late’ to fix the climate emergency.