NICOLA Sturgeon has denounced Boris Johnson for his “dictatorial attitude” towards Scotland and insisted the nation could “not be imprisoned in the Union against its will”.

The First Minister’s remarks were heavily criticised by Jackson Carlaw, the acting Scottish Conservative leader, who said they suggested she was "losing the plot" and that she had descended into becoming a "Nationalist rabble-rouser".

They came just minutes after Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, made clear that even if the SNP won a Holyrood majority at the Scottish parliamentary elections in 2021, the new Conservative Government would not facilitate a second vote on Scotland’s future.

The constitutional clash will be a central feature of post-Brexit politics in 2020 and beyond.

On Friday evening, the Prime Minister told Ms Sturgeon in a telephone call that he had no intention of allowing a second poll; last week he told The Herald the 2014 vote was “for good”.

But the FM went on the attack and told BBC TV’s Andrew Marr Show: “I’ve just won an election in Scotland on the proposition that people should have a choice over our future. The Scottish Conservatives by contrast fought that election on a single issue of opposition to an independence referendum and they lost.

“They lost vote share, they lost more than half of their seats. In what other kind of democracy would the party that lost the election, which in Scotland is the Conservatives, get to dictate to the party that won the election?”

She insisted what she regarded as a “perversion and subversion of democracy…will not hold,” warning Mr Johnson and his colleagues: “If he thinks saying no is the end of the matter, then he’s going to find himself completely and utterly wrong…

“You cannot hold Scotland in the Union against its will; you cannot sort of just lock us in a cupboard and turn the key and hope that everything goes away.

“If the Union, if the United Kingdom is to continue, then it can only be by consent and if Boris Johnson is confident in the case for the Union, then he should be confident enough to make that case and allow people to decide.”

The SNP leader will this week publish the “detailed democratic case for a transfer of power” to Holyrood “to enable a referendum to be put beyond legal challenge".

She argued the Tories would “rage against reality” for as long as they could but that Scotland had in the election chosen a very different future to the one chosen by much of the rest of the UK.

“They can’t stand in the way of the will of the Scottish people,” she declared, noting how the Conservatives under John Major tried to do so in the 1990s over the creation of the Scottish Parliament and discovered they could not sustain that position.

“They will not be able to sustain this position either because it’s not democratic. Fundamentally, democracy has to be honoured and respected,” she insisted.

Ms Sturgeon went on: “Recent history tells us that this dictatorial attitude of a Conservative Government saying that they will determine the future of Scotland, not the people of Scotland, doesn’t hold because it can’t hold in a democracy.

“So, if I’m sounding reasonably relaxed about this it’s because I know that the momentum and the mandate is on the side of those of us who want Scotland to be able to choose our own future.”

Asked what the SNP Government would do if the Tories in London simply continued to say No to indyref2, the FM said she would take things “step by step”.

This could include the possibility of a challenge in the courts. But the Scottish Government lost its case at the UK Supreme Court on the issue of the applicability of Holyrood’s consent in UK law.

Ms Sturgeon warned that the more the Tory Government tried to “block the will of the Scottish people” and showed “utter contempt” for Scottish democracy, the more it would increase support for independence. This, she said, was “in a sense is them doing my job for me”.

She added: “Scotland cannot be imprisoned within the United Kingdom against its will and these are just basic statements of democracy and you know the Tories might rage against the reality of what happened on Thursday for a while, I fully expect that they will, but ultimately they’re going to have face up and confront that reality because the will of the Scottish people cannot be ignored. And that’s just the simple fact of the matter.”

But, speaking on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Gove made clear the UK Government would "absolutely" not hold another public vote on Scottish independence during the course of the 2019-2024 Parliament regardless of how Scotland voted in the 2021 Holyrood election.

"We were told in 2014 that would be a choice for a generation; we are not going to have an independence referendum on Scotland."

He went on: “In this General Election we have just seen what happens when politicians try to overturn a referendum result and in the same way we should respect the referendum result of 2014.

“Scotland is stronger in the United Kingdom; you can be proudly Scottish and proudly British together. The best of this country – the National Health Service, the BBC – these are British institutions and, therefore, we should be proud of what we’ve achieved together and confident that the United Kingdom is a strong partnership that works in the interests of all.”

Asked if the Tory Government’s refusal to facilitate indyref2 would last for the whole Parliament, the Scot replied: “We were told in 2014 that that would be a choice for a generation; we are not going to have an independence referendum in Scotland.”

Mr Gove was echoed by his Cabinet colleague Rishi Sunak, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who told the Marr Show it was “absolutely not our intention” to empower Holyrood to hold a second independence referendum.

“We believe very strongly in our Union. It’s the most enduring and successful Union the world has seen. We think Scotland is stronger for being in it and the Union is stronger for having Scotland part of it.

“We did have a referendum on this question in 2014 and at the time people were told that was a once in a generation referendum. They voted very clearly to remain part of the UK and people can tell that we take respecting the results of referendums very seriously in this government and we believe that that result should be respected.”

Mr Sunak pointed out how the majority of Scots cast their votes in the election for parties that “supported the Union and not for separatist parties; so, I don’t accept that there is necessarily that mandate”.

Meanwhile, Mr Carlaw said: "Nicola Sturgeon should abide by the democratic terms she herself agreed to; that the 2014 referendum would be once in a generation and would be respected no matter the result.

"Another referendum next year, as she proposes, would be incredibly divisive, it would trap Scotland in yet more constitutional uncertainty and is opposed by a clear majority of Scots."

While he said the election result was a "good one" for the SNP, the Eastwood MSP added: "Talk of Scotland being 'imprisoned' in the UK now suggests Nicola Sturgeon is losing the plot as a result of the election.

"It is just five years since we had the choice of whether or not we wanted to leave the UK and we decided not to.

"This is the kind of language favoured by the wilder fringes of the Nationalist movement, not a First Minister who claims to speak for the centre ground.

"Scotland needs a First Minister with her eye on the job, not a Nationalist rabble-rouser," he added.