The SNP holding the balance of power in a hung parliament after December’s general election would be the “best” outcome for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister said such a scenario would put “Scotland into a powerful, influential position” where the country’s wishes could not be ignored by Westminster politicians.

She made the comments at an election rally, where she also revealed to party activists she had spent  had spent “a fair bit of time” considering her next steps if the UK’s next prime minister refuses to grant her the power to hold a second Scottish independence referendum.

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Boris Johnson has already ruled out granting a section 30 order, which would be necessary for the Scottish Government to hold a legally-binding ballot, if he is returned to Downing Street.

She refused to rule out a legal challenge, saying: “If we are in that situation, all options will be considered.”

The First Minister, speaking at an SNP election rally in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, was tight-lipped about her plans, saying: “We’re in an election campaign and if we reach that point, if we get to that bridge, I will set out then how I intend to cross that bridge.”

She added: “I think you can take for granted that I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about this over the past wee while.

“But I am not going to concede that point right now, I’m certainly not going to concede that point at the early stage of an election campaign, because as soon as you concede that point, you kind of concede the right of Westminster to have a veto over Scotland’s future.”

Looking ahead to the December 12 election, she said that “given the need to make Scotland’s voice heard … the need to make sure Scotland’s interests are to the fore, perhaps the best way of doing that is to have the SNP and SNP MPs holding the balance of power in a situation where neither of the main parties have an overall majority”.

Ms Sturgeon added this would put “Scotland into a powerful, influential position where we can make sure Scotland cannot be ignored”.

She insisted the “hard electoral reality” was that her SNP is the “main challenger” to Boris Johnson’s party in the 13 seats the Conservatives hold in Scotland.

In 2017, the 13 Scottish Conservative MPs were crucial in keeping the then prime minister Theresa May in Downing Street.

Ms Sturgeon told voters she believed the “best way” to deprive the current PM of a majority was to support her party.

The First Minister stated: “Fundamentally the question here is who decides Scotland’s future – is it Westminster, whether that is Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn?

“Do we leave Scotland in the position in general elections of having to cross our fingers and hope for the least worst alternative to emerge at the end of that process, or do we take our future into our own hands so we can guarantee we always get the governments we vote for, whoever they happen to be?”

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She described the election as a “really good opportunity for people in Scotland in the largest possible numbers to send a message to Boris Johnson” as she insisted that any continued refusal to allow a second independence vote was “not a sustainable position”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland can not and will not be ignored. Westminster does not have a veto on Scotland’s future, Scotland’s future is for the people of Scotland to decide.”

She went on to say there was “not a shadow of doubt” in her mind that Scots will vote for independence the next time the question is put to them.