NATIONALISTS must persuade more women if they are to achieve independence, Nicola Sturgeon said.

The Deputy First Minister said women thought about the debate in more practical terms than men and their concerns had to be addressed.

Polls indicate women are less likely to vote for independence than men and Ms Sturgeon said if the Yes campaign could convince more than half of them, Scotland would vote yes in September.

Speaking at a Scottish Council for Development and Industry event in Glasgow, she said an independent Scotland could close the gender inequality gap and increase the number of women in the workplace.

She admitted the opinion polls were a "challenge". She said: "Women approach these things in a more pragmatic manner. It is less about the state of the nation and more about the practical implications for their life.

"For me these are the issues that matter, I am not an identity driven nationalist. If we can put the focus on issues such as childcare and encour-aging entrepreneurs we can win."

She said that often there was a division between economic and social policies that was unhelpful.

The Glasgow Southside MSP said: "The commitment for universal childcare to be available for all children aged one to five, for the same number of hours as children spend at primary school would create, directly, 35,000 jobs.

"But more importantly it would enable more parents, particularly mothers, to enter the labour market.

"If we can reach the levels of female participation in the workforce achieved by Sweden this would mean an extra £700 million of taxes being raised every year."

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland would immediately regret the missed opportunity if it rejected independence.

And she added: "It will be difficult to explain to future generations, we had this opportunity to put ourselves in the driving seat but decided not to."

Opponents in the Better Together campaign said the SNP were unable to answer the important questions.

Jackson Carlaw, deputy leader of the Scottish Tories, said: "It is becoming increasingly clear that on critical issues such as currency and the economy, a prosperous future for Scotland is best secured within the UK.

"It doesn't matter how many speeches Nicola Sturgeon makes, her Yes campaign is still found wanting on a worrying number of important issues."