FORMER first ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Henry McLeish clashed on Scottish independence at an event at Wigtown Book Festival.

The sold-out event, chaired by former BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor, also included Tory MSP Liz Smith.

The Scotland Act, 25 Years On, explored all that has happened since the legislation was first passed in November 1998.

Sturgeon said she believes Scotland will become independent and accused the Westminster government of “democracy denial” for repeatedly ruling out a second independence referendum.

The National:

“We have a government that has no respect for the Scottish Parliament,” Sturgeon added.

“If we aren’t careful we will wake up one day in a few years and will wonder whatever happened to our Scottish Parliament.”

She continued to say that the denial of a second referendum was “unsustainable” and that “Scotland will have a choice and that choice will be independence”.

However, McLeish said he felt Scotland has “stalled on a number of major issues” including the “relentless focus on independence”.

“The dial has not shifted, there are no more people in favour of independence than there were in the past and the momentum has gone out of the independence movement,” he said.

For the next five years, he said, there must be a focus on solving issues around the economy, health and education.

He added that the next General Election should be treated as an opportunity to remove the Tory government that promotes “private affluence and public squalor”.

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However, both former first ministers did agree that Scotland needs more powers to address its own affairs.

Smith added that politics needs new ways for people to be able to agree and disagree with respect.

“Politics is toxic. Politics and politicians are deeply unpopular and we have to tackle that," she said.

“I believe what the people of Scotland really want is for us to be addressing the problems that confront us all and to see both parliaments working together to make this happen.”