Scotland's leader says election success will lead to independence vote

Scots voted against independence in 2014

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday she will push for another referendum on independence if her party is voted back into power at upcoming elections.

"There will be another independence referendum if the people of Scotland vote for another independence referendum," she told the devolved parliament in Edinburgh.

Sturgeon this week survived a no-confidence vote after a turbulent period in which she has been under pressure about her government's handling of harassment complaints against her predecessor.

But having being cleared of breaching the ministerial code, she will lead her Scottish National Party (SNP) at Scottish parliament elections on May 6.

Sturgeon, in power since 2014, said it would be a chance to put her record before the people, with predictions the SNP will win a majority, strengthening their push for another independence vote.

Scots voted against independence in 2014 but the SNP argues that the UK's Brexit departure from the European Union -- which most Scots opposed -- has dramatically changed the political calculus.

The SNP this week set out plans to hold a referendum by the end of 2023 but the party is expected to face strong resistance from the UK government in London, which has to grant powers for a vote.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly ruled out doing so, and has called the referendum a "once-in-a-generation" vote.

He told a parliamentary committee in London on Wednesday he was "very keen to respect that vote" but any new referendum would be "toxic and divisive".

Sturgeon, 50, has won popular support from her handling of Edinburgh's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But there have been indications the furore involving her former friend and mentor, Alex Salmond, dented backing for independence.

Scots are split virtually 50-50 as to whether to stay part of the United Kingdom or go their own way, according to opinion polls.