A FRESH split has opened up in the independence movement over when to hold a second referendum, with a former MSP accusing the SNP and Greens of “losing the plot”.

Colin Fox, a board member of the Yes Scotland campaign in 2014, said the two parties were gambling that a backlash against Brexit would secure a win for Yes next time.

The co-convener of the Scottish Socialists, Mr Fox criticised Nicola Sturgeon’s rush to hold a referendum yoked to the EU, despite the lack of public support for a new vote.

The First Minister has said the autumn of 2018 would be a "common sense time" to ask the country if it wanted to leave the UK.

The Yes movement did not need “mindless cheerleader support” for Ms Sturgeon or her SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson, Mr Fox said.

He warned: “Losing a second referendum would be the death knell for our cause… The next referendum will be far more difficult to win than the last one.”

Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson, former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars and former SNP Justice Secretary Kenneth MacAskill have also warned against a prematutre independence vote.

Writing in the Scottish Socialist Voice ahead of a Left meeting on Yes tactics in Edinburgh this Saturday, Mr Fox said Ms Sturgeon’s plan was “at odds with what the broad based Yes movement previously agreed”, which was only to call a referendum after a sustained poll lead.

He said: “The SNP leader is about to ditch that consensus and gamble a section of Scotland’s middle class, who refuse to accept the EU vote, will back independence to stop Brexit.

“Her gamble is one which puts the issue of EU membership ahead of independence.

“Sturgeon has presented the myth that the EU is some Garden of Eden where privileges are bestowed on Scotland from on high by some guardian angel in Brussels when it is in fact an anti-democratic bureaucracy entirely in the grip of a neoliberal corporate elite.”

Mr Fox, a Lothians list MSP for the Scottish Socialists from 2003 to 2007, said his party had backed a Remain vote last year, like many Scots, “as the lesser of two evils”.

In a sign of the divisions preventing a cross-party Yes Scotland campaign reforming, he went on: “SNP diehards who insist that ‘we started out in 2012 with 28 per cent support for independence and reached 45 per cent so we can win simply by doing what we did last time’ are deluded.

"The world of September 2014 has gone for ever.

“Nor is it health to offer mindless cheerleader support to everything Nicola Sturgeon and Angus Robertson say and do. That is not what the independence movement needs.”

He said the Yes cause still needed to “assuage the fears of Scotland’s working class majority” over currency, the economy, pensions, wages and “a thousand other unanswered questions”.

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “This once again shows the deep splits in the Yes campaign. Here we have a senior member of the pro-independence movement saying that he doesn’t want another referendum, in stark contrast to the SNP’s continued drive.

“It shows that if Nicola Sturgeon continues to push ahead with her plans, she’ll be doing it without the backing of those on her side last time out - or the vast majority of Scots.”

An SNP spokesman said: “People in Scotland voted overwhelmingly to Remain in Europe, but now face being dragged out against our will.

"If the Tories refuse to engage with our compromise proposals to keep Scotland in the single market, then an independence referendum must be an option to protect Scotland's vital national interests."