Nicola Sturgeon has said she intended “to do everything that’s within my power” to hold a second vote on the future of Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom before the end of next year.

Speaking on STV’s Scotland Tonight, the First Minister said the date legislation would be introduced to enable Scotland to hold the independence referendum would be announced “when we’ve taken the detailed decisions”, and told the broadcaster that there were “opportunities that come with Scotland being independent”.

“I intend to do everything that is within my power to enable that referendum to happen before the end of 2023, and we will set out exactly what that means in terms of the date of the introduction of legislation when we’ve taken the detailed decisions around that,” said the First Minister.

READ MORE: Covid LIVE: Nicola Sturgeon to give key lockdown update on extending restrictions

And she told Scotland Tonight: “What I think is much more exciting as we come out, I hope, of the pandemic, and certainly the acute phase of the pandemic, are the opportunities that come with Scotland being independent.”

But campaigners against Scotland leaving the United Kingdom and becoming an independent country have hit out at her remarks.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, branded the First Minister’s comments as a “gross insult to the people of Scotland”.

“Most people do not support leaving the UK and an overwhelming majority do not believe there should be another referendum any time soon,” she said.

“Politicians should focus on what really matters to people and address the challenges facing our NHS, education and the climate, rather than re-opening a tired old debate and seeking a legal battle over the constitution.

“Scotland’s best days lie ahead of us as part of the UK, building our shared future – not finding ways to divide us.”

Earlier on the programme, the First Minister discussed the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, adding the country had to ask itself “what adaptations to pre-pandemic life” might be needed so the country could live with coronavirus.

She hinted face masks may be used long into the future as part of this.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Sometimes when you hear people talk about learning to live with Covid, what seems to be suggested is that one morning we’ll wake up and not have to worry about it anymore, and not have to do anything to try to contain and control it.

“That’s not what I mean when I say ‘learning to live with it’.

"Instead, we will have to ask ourselves what adaptations to pre-pandemic life – face coverings, for example – might be required in the longer term to enable us to live with it with far fewer protective measures.”

Pressure had been growing on the First Minister to set out how Scotland can live with the coronavirus and loosen the restrictions, and her comments marked a change of tone.

Some business leaders said that tougher coronavirus rules failed to make a “meaningful difference” to infection levels and were causing “enormous damage” to some sectors.