NICOLA Sturgeon has stressed that next year’s Holyrood election will be the most important poll in Scotland’s history – warning that it would be “utterly untenable and unsustainable” for the UK Government to block a second independence referendum if the SNP secures a majority.

The First Minister has said that voters will face a “stark choice” between the SNP and the Scottish Conservatives, who she labelled as “utterly regressive”.

The SNP is attempting to win a record fourth term in power at May’s election and Ms Sturgeon has made clear that her party's election manifesto will include a commitment to hold a second independence referendum.

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Polling suggests the SNP is on course to secure a Holyrood majority – while support for independence has surged.

Writing in Holyrood Magazine’s 2020 annual review, the First Minister said she will “relish the chance to return to politics as normal once circumstances allow, especially as we look ahead to next year’s election”.

She added: “That election will be, in my view without question, the most important in Scotland’s history.

“Not only will it provide a stark choice between the progressive policy platform offered by the SNP and the utterly regressive agenda of the Conservatives, it will be an election which is, at its heart, about democracy.

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“We are privileged to live in a democracy. But if that is to mean anything it must mean accepting the results of free and fair democratic elections.”

The First Minister added that “in the event of another election win for the SNP, it would be utterly untenable and unsustainable for the Conservatives to stand in the way of the democratic will of the people of Scotland”.

But unionists have called on Ms Sturgeon to focus on rebuilding the economy.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “This is confirmation that Nicola Sturgeon wants to make next year’s election a referendum on another divisive referendum. 

“Dividing people like this is the very last thing Scotland needs and tells you everything you need to know about the SNP’s priorities.

“The First Minister should focus on bringing people together, rebuilding our economy for everyone, and supporting our cherished NHS.”

READ MORE: Former Scottish Tory chair: Grant Indyref2 if SNP win mandate next year

Former Tory MP and shadow Scottish secretary, Peter Duncan, has warned Boris Johnson that continuing to refuse a second referendum will bolster support for Scottish independence.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mr Duncan said: “The way for Unionists to win the argument on independence is not to be seen to deny any clear mandate for a referendum that may exist after the elections next year.

“A ‘no, never’ approach will fan the flames for independence, as the smarter advisers in Downing Street are now making clear.”