The Church of Scotland can provide a model of how to debate potentially divisive issues, Nicola Sturgeon will tell senior religious figures.

Addressing the Kirk’s General Assembly in Edinburgh, the First Minister will praise the Church for its ability to create consensus rather than division in these debates.

She will also credit the Kirk for encouraging co-operation between different faiths.

Ms Sturgeon will say: “The Church of Scotland has been at the centre of Scottish public life for generations and helped to re-establish the Scottish Parliament.

“The 1989 Assembly endorsed the Claim of Right for Scotland and passed a resolution calling for the creation of a democratically elected assembly.

“During that process, the Church facilitated and encouraged dialogue on potentially difficult and divisive issues.

“The manner in which the Assembly conducts itself is a model of how big issues can be debated in a way which builds consensus rather than creating division.

“I particularly applaud the encouragement of interfaith co-operation.

“At a time when intolerance and bigotry seem to be on the rise in some parts of the world, it is important that the major faiths in Scotland stand together in solidarity.”

She said issues currently facing Scotland, such as the constitutional future of the country regarding Brexit and independence, “arouse strong passions”.

The SNP leader will add: “Political leaders must attempt to air honest and strongly-held differences while simultaneously seeking common ground and consensus.

“That is why I announced the establishment of a citizens’ assembly on Scotland’s future to consider what sort of country we are seeking to build, how we best equip the Scottish Parliament for the future, and how we enable people to make informed choices about the future of the country.

“The spirit in which the citizens’ assembly is being convened is one which I hope will strike a chord with the Church.”

Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly, said: “We are delighted to welcome the First Minister, not least at the 20 years anniversary of the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in the building where it first met.

“We appreciate her interest in engaging with the Church and we very much look forward to hearing her address.

“Attending the Assembly gives the First Minister an opportunity to hear about the work under way across the Church and to discuss how together we can help build flourishing communities across Scotland.”