NICOLA Sturgeon has claimed that unionist politicians “want to silence Scotland’s voice” as she accused opponents of running scared of an independence referendum.

The First Minister was speaking after the Scottish Government’s plans for Holyrood to hold a re-run of the 2014 referendum was turned down by the UK Supreme Court.

She has warned that despite losing the key case, the situation "raises profoundly uncomfortable questions" for the unionist side of the constitutional debate.

Ms Sturgeon is to press ahead with her alternative strategy to use the next UK general election as a de factor referendum on independence.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that while she was “disappointed” by the outcome of the Supreme Court case, she would “respect and accept” the judgement.

She added: “The denial of democracy by Westminster parties demonstrates now beyond any doubt that the notion of the UK as a voluntary partnership of nations is not now, if it ever was, a reality.

“It remains open of course to the UK Government to respect democracy and to reach an agreement with the Scottish Government for a lawful constitutional democratic referendum.

“However, regardless of attempts by Westminster to block democracy, I will always work to ensure that Scotland's voice is heard and the future of Scotland is always in Scotland's hands.”

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that “unionist Westminster politicians want to silence Scotland's voice because they're scared of what Scotland might say” in a referendum.

She said: “Any politician who was confident of their case and confident of being able to persuade others of their case, would not be trying to block democracy – they would be embracing democracy.

“So I think we know everything we need to know about the views of Westminster unionist parties by the determination to block Scotland's democracy, but it will not prevail.”

The FM stressed that some within the No campaign “probably understand that yesterday’s judgement raises profoundly uncomfortable questions about the basis and the future of the United Kingdom”.

She added: “Any partnership in which one partner needs the consent of another to choose its own future is not voluntary and it's not even a partnership.

“You know, within the UK right now, it is the case that England could decide to become independent, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland supposedly can't. That is not a partnership that's not voluntary, and that is not equal.

“But Scotland's voice will not be silenced. Scotland's future is up to the people of Scotland, and that will always be the case.”