Nicola Sturgeon has said the pandemic has led to her having “much less patience for those who treat politics like a game” in a speech to SNP activists.
In an online speech, she also attacked Brexit and accused the Conservatives of “muscling in” on the Scottish Parliament’s responsibilities.
Her speech did not directly refer to Alba, the new pro-independence party launched by Alex Salmond to contest regional lists seats.
Sturgeon urged activists to cast both votes for the SNP, re-electing her as first minister and endorsing her “bold, progressive, ambitious policy programme” and the “right to choose our independence”.
The first minister said the coronavirus pandemic had made her reflect on what “really matters” in life and politics.
She said: “In politics, things that once seemed desperately important feel so much less so now.
“I don’t have much time these days for the who’s up, who’s down approach to politics.
“And I definitely have much less patience for those who treat politics like a game – and for indulging anyone who puts self interest ahead of the country’s best interests.
“If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that politics is about improving people’s lives or it is about nothing at all.”
She referred to a letter from the UK ministers opposing a Bill at Holyrood which incorporated the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child into domestic law.
The threat to strike down the law was an example of the UK Government “muscling in on the Scottish Parliament”, she said.
She continued: “Now, because of the strength of the SNP, the Tories probably think they wouldn’t get away with cutting Scotland’s share of UK spending.
“But I’m pretty sure that’s what they would like to do.
“Of course, even without that direct assault, the economic hit from Brexit will take its toll.”
Hitting out at the Tories’ “Hard Brexit”, she said: “The UK Government has stripped from its Trade Bill a clause that would have prevented any post-Brexit deals from undermining ‘a comprehensive publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery’.
“And as part of their power grab on the Scottish Parliament, they’ve given themselves the right to subject Scotland’s NHS to what they call market access principles, whatever the people of Scotland or the Scottish Parliament think.”
In response to the speech, Liberal Democrat campaign chair, Alistair Carmichael, said: “Nicola Sturgeon has had some well-documented failures of memory recently but even she must remember the way in which the last independence referendum completely occupied the bandwidth of the Scottish Government in the run-up to 2014.
“Every single civil servant who is working on an independence Bill is one who could be working on the recovery from the pandemic so for the First Minister to claim that independence is not a distraction is clearly baloney.
“While Willie Rennie sets out the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ plans for education and mental health, the first minister will spend it fighting a running battle with her former political mentor.”
Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s conference speech ultimately all came down to one single issue – the SNP’s obsession with another, divisive, independence referendum.
“When all our focus should be on rebuilding Scotland, the SNP are intent on dividing Scotland all over again.
“Only the Scottish Conservatives have the strength to stop an SNP majority, stop their push for another, divisive referendum and get the Scottish Parliament 100% focussed on rebuilding Scotland and recovering from this pandemic.”