FORMER First Minister Henry McLeish has said that voters in Scotland deserve a second independence referendum and he expects it could be "well within" the next five years.

The former Scottish Labour leader said a “fraudulent” prospectus was placed before Scots in 2014 and many voted No on the basis that remaining in the UK also meant being in the EU.

European Union membership was a recurring feature in the independence debate in the months and years leading up to the vote, but less than two years after the referendum the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU. Voters in Scotland voted to remain by 62 per cent, sparking a constitutional crisis.

Revealed: Majority of voters still oppose Scottish independence

"In 2014, people who voted to remain part of the UK did so a bit like a supermarket offer of buy one and get the other one free," McLeish told the Sunday Herald. "They were told by being part of Britain, they would be in the EU.

"But the 2014 choice is no longer available and Scots have the right to another referendum because of that.

"With Brexit we can see that the material basis of the referendum was fraudulent."

McLeish added that he would back a federal UK as an alternative to independence, but said he feared it "may be too late" for that option.

"There is a powerful case that next time there should be a wider choice for Scots.

"That choice must include the wider auspices of federalism.

"Independence has been the only show in town in the last decade, but the next referendum must not be some single choice.

"But I fear it may be too late for federalism."

Scottish Labour has raised the prospect of federalism as an alternative to independence in previous years but details have remained sketchy and the plan has never garnered significant public support.

McLeish also said that post-Brexit Britain could morph into a "51st state" of a Donald Trump-led America, which could lead to a surge in support for independence.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon placed plans for a second referendum on hold after the SNP lost 21 seats in last year's general election. It's thought the first minister will provide an update on any referendum plans this autumn.

McLeish said that after Brexit in March 2019, the issue of independence would be "reignited", and warned that Scotland would face economic difficulties after the UK leaves the EU.

He said: "The Conservatives see Brexit as being about a trade renaissance.

"But this is a total fiction and we are faced with hawking our wares around the world and being reliant on the unreasonable Donald Trump.

"Scotland would not want to be looked upon as part of a Britain which is a 51st state of America, with Trump's disastrous 'America first' policy."

According to the former first minister, five years would be a reasonable timescale to hold a second independence referendum, but it should take into account the timing of the next Holyrood election in 2021, as well as the next UK general election, which could be as late as 2022.

"If Brexit goes ahead there will be enormous consequences for Scotland," he said. "A head of steam is building up.

"Scots deserve to have a referendum and it could be well within five years."

Revealed: Majority of voters still oppose Scottish independence

Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Liberal Democrats voted against the SNP's plan to seek a second referendum in Holyrood last year, but the vote was carried through with the support of the Scottish Greens.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said Westminster would not grant an imminent referendum in Scotland, leading the two parliaments into a potential showdown if Sturgeon moves forward with a vote.