THE First Minister paid tribute to refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland during her keynote SNP party conference speech, stating: “They are part of who we are."

The SNP leader railed against the UK Government's Nationality and Borders Bill during her conference address and said it was a “stain” on Boris Johnson's administration.

Nicola Sturgeon also said she “looks forward” to when Scotland is in charge of its own immigration policies through independence.

The First Minister told party members at the virtual conference that she had attended “far too many funerals of much loved party stalwarts” in recent months, and paid tribute to SNP activist Calum Cashley.

READ MORE: SNP Conference: Independence the only route to a 'socially just' Scotland

She told delegates that Cashley worked “day in, day out” to bring about a better Scotland and that members should take inspiration from his life to make Scotland “all it can be”.

She said: “And that word ‘all’ is important. It is about everyone in Scotland.

“It is about those born here, and those who honour us by making this country their home.

“The Scottish election was the first time refugees and all foreign nationals with leave to remain had the right to vote.

“That was important for its own sake. But it is also a symbol of the country we are seeking to build. Open, welcoming, diverse.”

The First Minister noted refugees had settled in local authorities across Scotland and said: “They are a part of who we are."

The National:

The First Minister opened her speech by paying tribute to refugees and asylum seekers

She continued: “We should take pride from the fact that people who came here to escape persecution and war could, often for the first time in their lives, exercise what should be a universal democratic right.

“One of the lessons that humanity seems destined to have to relearn time and again is that the rights we enjoy today can never be taken for granted.

“That feels especially true just now.

“But sadly for many people across the world – especially women and girls – these rights are still a distant aspiration.

“Not just the right to vote, but the right to go to school, to freedom of expression, to be treated equally.”

The First Minister then told of the “heart-breaking stories” and “extraordinary bravery” in Afghanistan, and committed to welcoming and supporting those fleeing the Taliban regime.

READ MORE: Therese Coffey makes bogus claim about Universal Credit cuts

She said: “The UK has a heavy responsibility, particularly to those who supported British interests over the past 20 years and now face mortal peril.

“They must not be abandoned.

“There must be a credible plan to bring each and every one to safety and security.

“And we also have a continued moral and humanitarian obligation to provide hope and support to those who remain, particularly those striving to preserve the progress of the last two decades.

“The Afghan crisis has also shone a spotlight on the UK Government’s wider asylum Policy.”

Noting that speaking about the issue “wasn’t always popular”, she said that offering asylum to “those in dire need is an expression of our common humanity”.

She continued: “The UK Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill fails that basic test of humanity.

The National:

Sturgeon said Priti Patel's Nationality Bill is a 'stain' on the UK Government

“It could criminalise those seeking sanctuary from oppression simply for claiming asylum.

“The UN refugee agency says the bill would violate the 1951 Refugee Convention.

“These proposals are a stain on this Westminster government.

“They run counter to the kind of country we are seeking to build.

“And I look forward to the day when our asylum and migration policy is decided here in Scotland, not by a government in Westminster that sees it as an opportunity to show how tough it is, rather than how much it cares.”

We previously told how Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, told SNP members that independence is the only way to bring about a “socially just Scotland”.