Nicola Sturgeon has insisted a second vote on independence is necessary to protect Scotland from the consequences of a Tory Government and Brexit.

Two days before the UK leaves the European Union, the Scottish First Minister said independence is now the only realistic way that Scotland can be part of Europe.

She urged MSPs to back a motion in favour of a second independence vote being held later this year.

As she warned of the consequences of both Brexit and a Boris Johnson Government for Scotland, she said: “Given what the Tories have in store, proposing a further decision on independence isn’t simply legitimate – it is necessary.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell (Jane Barlow/PA)

She also hit out at UK Government ministers, accusing them of being “completely deaf to Scotland’s interests, needs and voice”, and adding that their vision for the UK is “driven on the part of some by jingoism and xenophobia”.

Independence, she argued, would give Scotland an alternative future.

Ms Sturgeon insisted Brexit is an “affront to democracy”, after almost two-thirds of voters north of the border backed Remain in 2016.

With Scotland leaving the EU “against the will of the vast majority of the Scottish people”, she insisted this marked a “material change in circumstances” from the reasons behind the first independence vote in 2014.

The First Minister said: “We stand just two days from losing our EU membership and all of the rights that go with it.

“In my view it is beyond doubt now that the only realistic way for Scotland to return to the heart of Europe and to ensure we get the governments we vote for is to become an independent country.

“What should be beyond any democratic argument, in light of the material change in circumstances that Brexit represents, is that it must be Scotland’s choice to make.

“And it must be for this Parliament, not Westminster, to determine when and on what basis an independence referendum should take place.”

She hit out at the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats for their opposition to a second ballot, saying: “It is hard to escape the conclusion that it is their fear of the choice Scotland would make on the substantive question that is driving the anti-democratic position of the opposition parties.

“It is only ever parties that know their arguments are bust that have to resort to blocking democracy.

“I know not everyone agrees with my position on independence, but I am happy to have that debate and let Scotland decide.”

But opposition leaders accused her of a “contemptuous use of power” for debating Scottish independence at Holyrood rather than the issues of education, policing or the health service.

Interim Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said the debate was a “ridiculous charade” from an SNP Government “divided” over independence.

He added: “If only this Government spent the same amount of attention on police and schools as it does on polling and spin, we might have the safest streets and the best schools in Europe.

“Instead of a laser-like focus on education, health and the economy, they all have been sidelined in favour of this First Minister’s singular priority.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said dealing with the consequences of Brexit should take priority over an independence vote this year.

He insisted “nobody in this chamber really believes that there will be a referendum this year”, as he branded the Government motion being debated as “synthetic, political manufacture, dressed up as high principle”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie claimed the First Minister’s actions were an attempt to appease factions within her own party rather than to push Holyrood to make a decision on the constitution.

But Green co-leader Patrick Harvie backed the First Minister, saying: “Scotland is not being given the respect for that claim of right, that sovereignty that was given to the people, and the only way to change that is for Scotland – the people who live here – to be given the right to make that decision for themselves again.”