NICOLA Sturgeon is being urged by senior SNP figures to wait until after the 2020 General Election and another expected Conservative victory before calling a second independence referendum.

Influential party insiders are cautioning their leader against a rush to the polls again as an opinion snapshot suggested the highest number of respondents, 46 per cent, said there should not be another referendum in the next few years. It found 33 per cent who want one by 2019.

One MP said: "There are some who want another referendum soon. But we have to see how the Brexit negotiations work out and build an economic argument; that takes time. Our best opportunity will come after another Tory victory at the next General Election."

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon - Decisions about Scotland should be taken by those who live and work here

This, he explained, was because Scotland's democratic deficit will once again be highlighted and, Theresa May's continuation in No 10 on a right-wing platform, would bolster the independence cause on the back of Brexit.

Another added "We have to be really careful and not rush this. It's unlikely we'll get what we want from the Brexit process but we have to build a solid economic case for independence among those who voted No in 2014. That looks like a second referendum after 2020. The polls show they're not there yet. The bottom line is: we can't afford to lose another one."

The views contrast with that expressed by Alex Salmond, who last night said that Scotland is "on the brink of a new campaign to assert our nationhood".

Mr Salmond last week said Prime Minister Theresa May was set to fail in maintaining Scotland’s status within the EU during the Brexit negotiations and so he expected a second poll on Scotland’s future “roughly in two years’ time”.

But they chime with the views of Henry McLeish, the former Labour First Minister, who noted how there was little change in support for independence; yesterday’s Panelbase poll of 1,000 adults for the Sunday Times placed it at 48 per cent, down four points from 52 per cent in June in the aftermath of the EU vote but up three points from the 2014 result.

“There is no clear majority for leaving the Union and certainly not the overwhelming majority the First Minister says she needs before pushing for a new referendum," said Mr McLeish. Ms Sturgeon has indicated opinion polls need to show support for independence at 60 per cent for a period of time before she would be willing to push the button on another referendum.

"There is no case for an early referendum on independence, so Labour should use the next few years to argue for a credible, sustainable and supportable alternative built around home rule and some form of federalism," added Mr McLeish.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon - Decisions about Scotland should be taken by those who live and work here

As Yes campaigners marked the second anniversary of the 2014 vote with rallies in Glasgow and elsewhere, Alistair Carmichael, the former Scottish secretary, picked up on the First Minister’s comments in the Sunday Herald when she said the case for full self-government “ultimately transcends the issues of Brexit, of oil, of national wealth and balance sheets and of passing political fads and trends”.

Speaking at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, Mr Carmichael said Ms Sturgeon’s candid statement about what has been dubbed “transcendental independence” confirmed what many had always suspected; that “there is no price that would be too high for a Nationalist to get independence”.

Noting how, despite the FM’s remarks, Scots would still want to know what independence would mean for their mortgages and cost of living, the MP for Orkney and Shetland noted: “This could be ultimately a game-changer; ultimately, it may be this will be the strategic shift that will turn the tide against them.”

In her article, Ms Sturgeon said the Brexit vote was "probably the most striking and significant instance ever" of the "democratic deficit that Scotland has continually faced". Scots voted 62 per cent to 38 to stay in the EU.

She pointed out how every poll since the Brexit vote in June had placed support for Scottish independence higher than it was in the 2014 referendum; 45 per cent.

Mr Salmond spoke again on the issue last night after the relaunch of the Scottish Independence Conviction grassroots pro-independence campaign in Glasgow.

He said: "Nicola Sturgeon has said that she is going to look at maintaining Scotland's position within Europe, however that can be done.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon - Decisions about Scotland should be taken by those who live and work here

"I think she will discharge that mandate, I think she will make the offers to embed Scotland within the European negotiations.

"I'm quite certain that Nicola Sturgeon is sincere in putting that forward - of course she is - but what I am estimating is what Westminster is likely to do.

"They might prove me wrong, there may be a surprise, but it would be the first time in my political life that Westminster ever did anything for Scotland unless they had to do it.

"Therefore, my anticipation is they won't recognise Scotland, the vote in Scotland to stay within the European context, and then we will be talking about being engaged in another independence referendum."

He added: "The Brexit vote is not the reason for Scottish independence, but of course it is the mandate and the majority in the Scottish Parliament."

, also writing in the Sunday Herald, said: "Our deadwood Unionist media wheezed that support for independence was 'only at 48 per cent'. Only 48 per cent? When I fired the starting gun on the 2014 referendum support for independence was at 28 per cent."

But Willie Rennie, the Scottish Lib Dem leader, claimed Ms Sturgeon was now “trapped” by her increasingly strident rhetoric on independence.

Noting how the SNP party conference was now just weeks away, the Fife MSP said: “Nicola is trapped on a timetable potentially for another referendum because she has pumped it up so much. She won’t be able to choose when she has that next referendum because she had only wanted to have it when she was guaranteed to win. That in part has been taken out of her hands by the masses of SNP members who think it is their big chance.”

Mr Rennie, who in his keynote conference speech today will denounce the Tories and the SNP as the “terrible twins of division,” added: “My argument would be: you don’t add chaos onto chaos, you don’t respond to the break-up of Europe by the break-up of Britain.”