People are waking up to the fact Ireland is receiving more support from the EU than Scotland is from Westminster, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister criticised the UK Government for treating Scotland with “utter contempt” over Brexit.
She spoke out during a trip to Dublin, where she met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, business leaders and schoolchildren.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We voted over 60% to remain, we have tried very hard in the wake of the UK-wide Brexit vote to find compromises and protect our interests, and we have worked hard across party lines to try to prevent the worst impact of Brexit, and we have been ignored.
“Votes in the Scottish Parliament have been cast aside, they have even in the process of the Brexit fiasco taken powers away from the Scottish Parliament in order to centralise how they deal with all of this.
“Scotland has been treated with contempt by Westminster and people are contrasting that with Ireland, that has been shown real solidarity and support from the European Union.
“Suddenly this idea of being a small independent country in the European Union, we only have to look at Ireland to see the benefits of that and many people are having their eyes opened.”
Ms Sturgeon spoke in a public conversation with Dearbhail McDonald at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin during her visit on Monday.
She said she expects Scotland will vote for independence the next time a referendum is held, adding the relationship between her nation and Ireland will grow even stronger then.
“There will be another Scottish independence referendum and I will make a prediction today that Scotland will vote for independence and we will become an independent country just like Ireland, and the strong relationship between our two countries now will become even stronger soon,” she said.
“I want to see Scotland having the choice of independence within this term of the Scottish Parliament, which ends in May 2021, so towards the latter half of next year would be when I think is the right time for that choice.”
Ms Sturgeon also said the Scottish National Party have examined Ireland’s path to independence in their own planning.
“The proposition that my party is putting forward now is that we should follow the same path that Ireland followed when it became independent, we use the pound which is our currency until such times as the economic conditions are right to move to an independent Scottish currency, it’s a perfectly well-trodden path,” she said.
Later, Ms Sturgeon met Irish business leaders, schoolchildren and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
She described the visit as having “highlighted the benefits of EU membership for Ireland and exactly what Scotland would miss out on if taken out of the EU against our will.
“Ireland is Scotland’s closest international trading partner and our fifth largest export market,” she said.
“It is in the interest of both countries to ensure that we continue to work together and cooperate, not just on an economic level but also in dealing with similar challenges around political engagement.
“This is exactly why we must strengthen, not strain these bonds.”