Nicola Sturgeon has declared a second Scottish independence referendum is the "will of the country" despite projections her SNP will miss out on an overall majority.

With 73 out of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament declared, it appeared that the SNP - while winning 62 of the seats so far - would miss out on the 65-seat majority they craved when regional top-up seats roll in later tonight.

But Ms Sturgeon insisted that, with the pro-independence Greens due to pick up seats under the list system, "it is the will of the country" for Scotland to have a second independence vote - seven years after losing the last one in 2014.

In a major speech issuing her verdict to Westminster, she said there is "no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson... seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our own future.

She added: "The people of Scotland must have the right to decide our own future when the Covid crisis has passed.

"This is now a matter of fundamental democratic principle.

"Already I hear today opposition parties and some commentators talking about what they call SNP demands for an independence referendum. They're desperately trying to rewrite the basic rules of democracy and rewrite what constitutes and election and a mandate.

"And of course I hear the usual talk of Boris Johnson refusing to give into those demands."

She added: "All of this risks treating voters in Scotland and our entire democratic process as if they simply don't matter...

"The people of Scotland have voted to give pro-independence parties a majority in the Scottish Parliament.

"It is beyond doubt that the pro-independence majority will be larger in our new parliament than it was in the last one."

Despite projections suggesting she will miss out on a 65-seat majority, Ms Sturgeon said her party had "won more votes and a higher share of the votes in the constituency ballot than any party in the history of devolution".

With the SNP now entering a historic fourth term in government at Holyrood, she said her "immediate and over-riding task" would be to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking about the election result, she said the "majority of people in Scotland back a progressive, inclusive, outward looking vision for the future of our nation".

Ms Sturgeon contrasted that with the situation south of the border, saying: "Yet we are facing many more years of right-wing Brexit-obsessed Tory governments that we don't vote for, taking us in a direction we haven't chosen."

Nicola Sturgeon's party gained three seats during the count on Friday - the only party to take a constituency from another - winning Ayr, Edinburgh Central and East Lothian.

But uncertainty rolled into Saturday as the wins picked up by the SNP could cause the party to lose regional seats under Holyrood's top-up system - cancelling out their gains.

And crucially Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie held on to her Dumbarton constituency, which had been the most marginal seat in all of Scotland and a top target for the SNP.

Ms Baillie had a majority of just 109 in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, but increased that to 1,483.

Boris Johnson earlier told the Daily Telegraph another referendum would be "irresponsible and reckless" in the "current context" as Britain emerges from Covid.

Tory UK Environment Secretary George Eustice added: "We think this is a complete distraction.

"It would be irresponsible to have another divisive referendum and another bout of constitutional debate at a time when we are charting our way out of this pandemic and when we've got to really focus on economic recovery.

"We think it's completely the wrong thing to be doing.

"We had a referendum just a little over five years ago and that settled the issue."