NICOLA Sturgeon has expressed fears that the vote to leave the European Union has taken the UK back to a bygone age of racism and intolerance.

The First Minister said that recent reports of hatred and abuse reminded her of the types of incidents seen in the 1980s.

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Her remarks came as she told Makar Jackie Kay that she had been moved by a story the poet had recounted in her memoirs.

The Maker revealed she had been attacked while on the London Underground in the early 1980s by "fascists" and her pleas for help were rejected by a group of professionals, who said they supported the racists.

Ms Sturgeon said that she had reread the book and the scene had "powerfully impacted" on her in a more potent way that during the original reading.

"Perhaps it was because I felt that was something from a bygone age, whereas this time it reminded me of some of the stories I had heard about the racial attacks in the aftermath of the EU referendum," she said.

"It felt a bit too current.”

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The UK Government has pledged to review how it monitors the racist attacks following evidence it has been exacerbated by the Brexit vote.

Weeks after Britain voted to leave the EU, racist and religiously motivated stickers were found in Glasgow proclaiming some areas of the city as ‘white zones' while there have also been reports of migrants being told to go home.

Scottish schools have now been urged to record and report ‘identity-based’ bullying in the wake of the vote.

Earlier this week Ms Sturgeon met with more than 400 people from 24 different EU countries living in Scotland in a bid to reassure them about the implications of the Brexit vote.

Among them were German couple Thomas and Elke Westen, who live in Kirkcaldy and who said that they no longer felt welcome after the Brexit vote.

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In a conversation with Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh International Book Festival yesterday, Jackie Kay recalled a racist incident she faced 30 years ago in London.

"When I was 19, I was on the platform at the Angel (tube stop) and these BNP-type people broke bottles and started to attack me and my friends, and my friend's nose was covered in blood," she said.

"There was three businessmen on the platform and I said: 'Aren't you going to do anything to help us?'

"They said: 'No, we support them.'

"It gave me such a shock. They (the attackers) were obvious fascists with T-shirts and broken bottles, but these perfectly respectable looking people said they supported them, and that has always haunted me. It was even more upsetting.

"There were fascists at university and this time does take me back to that time, not in Scotland actually but in other parts of the country there is an atmosphere that can be picked.

"There is a xenophobia, there's a permission, there has been all sorts of attacks.

"I heard a Polish boy on the radio the other day saying he goes into school and people are attacking him, and these things break your heart.

"You think, have we sleepwalked into this, how can this be possible?"

Ms Sturgeon urged the poet, who now lives in Manchester and who said that Scotland now feels a “very different country to England”, to "keep writing polemics about [Ukip's] Nigel Farage".

The First Minister's comments comes as German chancellor Angela Merkel has dashed the hopes of millions by appearing to rule out a second vote on the decision to leave the EU.

Ms Merkel said that the Brexit vote was “irrevocable”.

More than four million people signed a petition asking for another vote after the shock result.

A number of high-profile politicians have also suggested that the British public should get to pass judgement on the ‘Brexit’ deal the UK Government secures from Brussels.

Ms Merkel also signalled that Prime Minister Theresa May will face tough negotiations ahead.

The Conservative leader has yet to formally trigger the process of detailing the UK’s exit from the 28-nation bloc.

Mrs Merkel said: "The whole process of the exit still lies ahead of us, but the decision is irrevocable."

She added that the decision was a test for the EU, adding: "Now we must negotiate on the basis of our interests. And 'negotiate' means, above all, strengthening common projects."

In what appeared to be a warning to other countries thinking of leaving, she also said that the EU offered members a stronger voice internationally than they would have on their own.