DOWNING Street has insisted the “last thing” Scotland needs is another divisive independence referendum but did not rule out the UK Government facilitating one.

It claimed the reasons for the nation staying part of the UK were as strong now as they were in September 2014.

In the past, David Cameron has been adamant that the vote of 18 months ago would stand for a generation and made clear there would not be a second poll on Scottish independence. Westminster remains the constitutional authority concerning referendums.

However, during the EU referendum campaign the Prime Minister said he was “worried” about the prospect of a second Scottish independence poll and the break-up of Britain; his aides later suggested he was not expressing his own view but one that had been widely expressed by others.

When asked - in light of Nicola Sturgeon’s declaration that a second independence referendum was now “highly likely” following the Brexit vote - would Mr Cameron facilitate one, his spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister’s view has not changed. There was a legal, fair and decisive referendum nearly two years ago.

“The reasons for Scotland to be in the UK are as strong now as they were 18 months ago. What we all need to do is to focus on getting the best deal for Scotland and the UK in these negotiations. The last thing that Scotland needs now is a divisive referendum.”

But when asked if that meant Mr Cameron would refuse to facilitate any demand from the SNP Government to hold a second poll, the spokeswoman said: “It’s not on the table right now. What is on the table right now is the decision of the UK to leave the EU and how best to secure interests as part of that and that’s what we should be focusing on.”

When it was pointed out that the First Minister had in terms said the issue of a second independence poll was now “very much on the table” - her cabinet has approved a plan to start drawing up the necessary legislation to hold another referendum - the spokeswoman replied: “There is no formal proposal request on the table.”

Earlier, David Mundell suggested the UK Government would facilitate a second independence poll when he said: "Could there be another referendum? Of course there could, that's a process issue. Should there be another referendum? That's a quite different issue and there should not be another independence referendum."

The Scottish Secretary accused Ms Sturgeon of "opportunism" to further the "independence agenda".

Meantime, the PM’s spokeswoman was asked about whether or not the Scottish Parliament had the ability to veto Brexit and replied: “The position is clear; foreign policy is a reserved matter and this was a decision taken by the United Kingdom.”

Asked about Ms Sturgeon’s intention to establish “immediate discussions” with Brussels to “protect Scotland’s place in the EU,” the spokeswoman said: “That’s a matter for them. There is a Scotland Office in Brussels that has existed for a number of years.”