NICOLA Sturgeon has told Boris Johnson a second independence referendum is "a matter of when not if” in the wake of the SNP’s landslide election win.

The First Minister made the assertion in a phone call with the Prime Minister, despite senior Tories questioning her mandate and the legality of her tactics. 

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the SNP failing to win an overall majority was a “significant difference” to the circumstances which led to the 2014 referendum.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross also said the SNP’s threat to legislate for a referendum without Westmister consent was a non-starter, as the Scottish Government’s own law officers wouldn’t approve any Bill that was beyond Holyrood’s current competence.

The First Minister yesterday posed outside her official Bute House residence in Edinburgh, saying she was already “back at work”.

One of her first duties was a phone call with the Prime Minister, who has invited all the devolved leaders to a UK summit on the economic recovery form the Covid pandemic.

After the call, a spokesperson for the First Minister said she had made clear her immediate focus was on steering the country through Covid and into recovery.

She also said the new Scottish Government would work with the UK government “as far as possible on that aim”, and on the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this year.

The spokesperson added: “The FM also re-iterated her intention to ensure that the people of Scotland can choose our own future when the crisis is over, and made clear that the question of a referendum is now a matter of when - not if.”

Downing Street emphasised the Covid recovery.

A spokesperson said: “This afternoon, the Prime Minister spoke to the First Minister of Scotland to congratulate her on her party’s success, having secured the largest number of seats in the Scottish Parliament.

“They both agreed that their immediate focus should be and is on working together to build back from the pandemic. The Prime Minister stressed how recovery will be more effective if both Governments work together and reiterated his invitation for the First Minister to join a summit meeting to discuss our shared challenges on covid recovery and how we can overcome them.

“The Prime Minister also discussed other areas of shared interest as a strong United Kingdom, including setting the green agenda and the COP26 Summit in Glasgow.

“The Prime Minister concluded by emphasising the importance of focusing on covid recovery at this time.”