Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to push ahead with plans for another referendum on independence after she was voted back in as First Minister today.

The SNP leader was comfortably re-elected by a majority of MSPs to continue serving in Scotland's top political job - and immediately declared she would press on with her bid to end the Union.

But the First Minister also insisted she would not ignore the views of Scots opposed to independence - and vowed they must not feel like they are being "bludgeoned towards an outcome you have not been persuaded on".

Sturgeon repeated her claim that her party had a "clear mandate" to deliver an IndyRef2 after it won 64 out of 129 seats at the Holyrood election earlier this month.

It comes as the UK Government has indicated it will not grant the legal powers the Scottish Government needs to hold another referendum on the constitution.

Boris Johnson and other Tory ministers insist it would be wrong to plan such a vote while the country continues to deal with the devastating impact of the covid pandemic.

But the SNP leader shot down that argument at Holyrood on Tuesday - telling MSPs: "We can't simply be told there is no democratic route to seeking the future we want for our country."

Sturgeon defeated Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie to become First Minister at the internal Holyrood ballot.

She won 64 votes, ahead of Mr Ross on 31, four for Willie Rennie and 28 MSPs abstained.

Addressing the chamber after the vote, Sturgeon said: "It is important in the interests of democracy for that to be acknowledged and respected.

"But it is also important that I exercise that mandate with responsibility, humility, and only when the crisis of covid has passed - and I give that commitment today.

"I believe being independent will give Scotland, now and in the future, the best chance of making the most of our vast talents and resources.

"There is so many ways in which that matters - and we were reminded of one of them just last week.

"Our economic prospects depend on us attracting more people to live and work here in Scotland and yet on Thursday, in Kenmure Street in my constituency, immigration officials tried to forcibly remove two individuals against the wishes of their community."

Sturgeon continued: "With independence, the decisions that shape our future will lie with us.

"But I have always believed that how we achieve independence is as important as the outcome itself. It will determine the strengths of the foundations on which we build.

"I am acutely aware that opinion on whether or not Scotland should be independent is evenly balanced. My decisions as a First Minister for all of Scotland will always be mindful of that.

"But that should apply to all of us. The views of those who do not support independence must not be ignored.

"You mustn't feel as if you are being bludgeoned towards an outcome you have not been persuaded on.

"By the same token, the views of those who support independence can't be ignored either. We can't simply be told there is no democratic route to seeking the future we want for our country."

Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, said: “Right now, we need a First Minister for everyone in Scotland, not a campaigner leading a movement for half the country but a First Minister who will lead a national recovery for everyone.”

He added: “The national recovery can’t just be a slogan, but it must be our parliament’s collective national mission on behalf of the people we are all elected to represent.

“So over the coming years, let’s be inspired by the future we can build, not the arguments of the past. Let’s demonstrate the best of Scotland. Let’s focus on what you unites us, not what divides us.”

Making her first speech at Holyrood, the Scottish Greens co-leader, Lorna Slater, challenged the other parties to commit to “more cross-party working on matters such as a national care service, housing, education, and tackling the climate and nature emergencies”.

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Responding to Sturgeon's re-election as First Minister, Tory leader Douglas Ross said: "We cannot spend the next five years mired in the same stale debates and disagreements that consumed and held back the last parliament.

"This time we need a parliament of action, a parliament of delivery, a parliament of purpose. A parliament that unites this country and leads it in a national mission to get us all through this.

"If that is the task that the SNP Government applies itself to 100 per cent then it will find support from these benches.

"But if they deviate from that task, if the put political priorities ahead of Scotland’s interests; if they waste time in this chamber on old arguments instead of constructive delivery then we will fight them every step of the way.

"The Scottish people have elected this Scottish Parliament and every single member on a promise of delivering Scotland’s recovery. To the task of steering our country through the rest of the coronavirus pandemic."