Nicola Sturgeon has said that tackling Covid will remain her top priority if she is re-elected and urged the people of Scotland to give both votes to the SNP to secure experienced leadership in Holyrood.

Writing in The National on Sunday the First Minister said: "The case for independence is as compelling and relevant as it has ever been – but so is the need for those of us who believe in it to make our case passionately, respectfully, and persuasively to those of our fellow citizens whose support is there to be won but who are not yet convinced.

"That’s why it is essential that we prioritise guiding the country safely through the rest of the pandemic.

"These are the most serious of times. And they require serious, experienced leadership. I have spent every day over this past year tackling the pandemic. And I will continue that laser-like focus on beating Covid for as long as necessary if I am re-elected as First Minister."

Sturgeon also hit out at the tactics used in the lead-up to the vote on Thursday.

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She wrote in our pro-independence sister paper The National: "And it is no surprise that, in recent days as we count down to this Scottish election, political opponents of independence have reverted to the use of fear as their principal weapon.

"A litany of stories in recent days appear to have been dredged up from the autumn of 2014, without even recognising that the world has changed.

"But those of us who believe in independence should take heart from the fact that Project Fear appears to have been resurrected. It shows us that the arguments against Scottish self-government have barely moved on in the last seven years, while those in favour get stronger all the time"

Sturgeon also published an open letter on the same day an exclusive Herald poll by BMG Research suggested the SNP is set to win 68 seats

In an open letter to be published on the last weekend of the campaign, the party leader thanked the public for their efforts over the last year during the pandemic.

She urged them to vote for the SNP on both the constituency and regional ballots on Thursday.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Over the past year, I've done my best every day to steer Scotland through this difficult and heartbreaking time.

"I have asked a lot of you, and we've all asked a lot of each other, to keep the country as safe as possible. I can never thank you enough for the sacrifices you've made.

"By working together, lives have been saved and the NHS has been protected. We have made progress and there is now light at the end of the tunnel. Having come this far, it is vital that we stay the course.

"This Thursday, there is one more thing you can do to help keep the country on the right track. To continue our progress and keep Scotland in safe hands, I'm asking you to use both your votes for the SNP.

"The SNP is the only party with a clear plan to support the NHS, protect jobs, help our young people get on, and build a better future for Scotland.

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"And I am the only candidate for First Minister offering tried and tested leadership to guide us through the crisis and into recovery.

"Your votes can give me, and a re-elected SNP government, the strength we need to keep Scotland safe.

"That means voting SNP on the constituency vote. And voting SNP on the regional list vote. Both votes are necessary to secure experienced leadership with Scotland at heart.

"I'm ready to get on with the job. Please help me to do that, by using both your votes for the SNP on Thursday."