The views of those who do not support Scottish independence “must not be ignored”, Nicola Sturgeon has insisted.
The First Minister said people who are not in favour of the country becoming independent must not feel that they are “being bludgeoned towards an outcome you have not been persuaded of”.
Sturgeon made the comments after she was re-elected as First Minister by MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
“I have always believed that how we achieve independence is as important as the outcome itself. It will determine the strength of the foundation on which we build,” she said.
“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 of.
“But, by the same token, the views of those who do support independence can’t be ignored either.
“We can’t simply be told that there is no democratic route to seeking the future we want for our country.”
Sturgeon indicated that the only legitimate way to resolve difference is through democratic means.
She said: “Unity of purpose for any country is an important condition of success, but unity is not achieved by pretending that genuine differences of opinion don’t exist, or that one side of a debate has no right to be heard.
“Unity is best achieved through open, informed and respectful discussion, and crucially, by agreeing that the only legitimate way ultimately to resolve difference is through democratic means.
“Passions will always run high on the issue of independence and for good reason. But, if on both sides of this great national debate we can strive for mutual understanding, empathy and if we show a willingness sometimes to listen more than to talk, and respect the power of democracy, I believe we can and will find the right path and we will do so together and at the right time.”