NICOLA Sturgeon has said she will park the independence question “for as long as it takes” to cope with coronavirus, and urged her party to drop the subject for now.

The First Minister said she would be “on the wrong side of public opinion pretty quickly” if she focused on the constitution instead of the pandemic.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston, Ms Sturgeon also repeated her readiness to quarantine visitors from England if the health circumstances justified it.

She also dismissed Unionist arguments that Scotland was benefiting from the financial clout of the UK during the crisis as “redundant”.

Ms Sturgeon is facing growing restlessness within the wider Yes movement over perceived slow progress towards independence.

A number of senior SNP figures have this week suggested trying to use a new list-only party vehicle to maximise Yes MSPs at the 2021 Holyrood election to help secure Indyref2.

Former SNP MSP Dave Thompson said he was quitting the party after 55 years to back the fledgling Alliance for Independence, which intends to stand on the list in 2021.

Unless the SNP removes itself from the list system, the new party risks splitting the Yes vote.

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Despite repeatedly implying she had a plan to overcome Tory resistance to Indyref2, Ms Sturgeon kicked the issue into the long grass in the New Year.

Boris Johnson refused her request for Holyrood to be given the power to stage Indyref2, saying the No vote of 2014 should stand for a generation.

After the Covid outbreak began in the spring, Ms Sturgeon paused Scottish Government on a referendum which was already a long-shot.

Asked by presenter Robert Peston about the potential timing of Indyref2, Ms Sturgeon said she made “no apology” for spending the last four months focusing on coronavirus.

She said: “I've put politics, I've put constitutional arguments to one side in order to give that my undivided attention and I will do that for as long as it takes. 

“This is the biggest crisis our country has faced, the biggest crisis the world has faced in any of our lifetimes, and I think any politician in a leadership position that doesn't give it that focus I think would find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion pretty quickly.”

She again suggested the SNP would do well to stop talking about independence.

She said: “Support for independence was rising before the pandemic. 

“I said this in an interview earlier in the week, maybe there is a lesson in this for my party, and for the independence movement in Scotland, that at a time when we've not been talking about it and focusing on taking good decisions that are within our power to take, we've seen support for independence rise."

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When Mr Peston suggested Scotland was feeling the benefit of being in the Union thanks to the government’s UK-wide borrowing, she said: "I just think these kinds of constitutional arguments when we're dealing with a public health crisis are pretty redundant. 

“What we are all trying to do is navigate our way through an unprecedented situation. 

“If Scotland was... an independent country, then we would be using our own borrowing powers and we would be financing these schemes in exactly the same way as other small, similarly sized independent countries to Scotland are doing. 

“How it's working right now is just a feature of how the UK is at the moment, and how the economy and the fiscal system of the UK works, so I don't really think you can draw the conclusion from that, that you just have."

She said she expected Scotland to take “a couple of weeks” longer than England to come out of lockdown, but it would ultimately help the economy recovery.

She said: “My calculation is that if we are more successful in driving the virus to very low levels, getting as close as possible to elimination of it before a potential second wave in the autumn and winter, then we will build ourselves a much more sustainable foundation for economic recovery. 

“So the judgement is that taking a couple of weeks, and that's pretty much what we're talking about here, longer to come out of lockdown, if that buys us a more sustainable recovery in the medium to long term, then that's the right thing to do."

Asked if Scotland had the power to effectively quarantine Scotland from England, she said: “Scotland would have the ability through public health measures to ask people to quarantine if they came to Scotland.

“This is not political, it is not constitutional, I'm taking these decisions purely from a public health perspective. 

“We do see prevalence of the virus at a lower level at the moment, although we're not complacent, than we do in England. 

“But that's not something I want to do if we can avoid that.

“I think the first thing we want to do is work very constructively as we do already with authorities in England to look at good outbreak management and where that requires localised travel restrictions, then rely on that in the first instance. 

“But I'm not going to shy away from doing anything that I think is necessary and appropriate and effective in protecting people in Scotland from a virus that we know now to our painful cost can take life and also... do a lot of long-term health damage to people."