ONE of Nicola Sturgeon’s key ministers had held talks with the People’s Vote campaign.

Michael Russell, the constitutional relations secretary, told MSPs he had “very constructive” discussions with the campaign’s Hugo Dixon on Wednesday morning.

However he said the government would not back another referendum without a guarantee that Scotland would not be taken out of Europe if there was a repeat of the 2016 result, when Scotland voted Remain but the UK as a whole voted Leave.

This is seen by the SNP’s critics as demanding a guarantee that a similar result would be interpreted as a vote for Scottish independence.

Mr Russell revealed the talks with the Mr Dixon after being goaded at Holyrood by Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie over the SNP’s failure to back a People’s Vote.

Mr Rennie said of Mr Russell: “He and I have had talks on several occasions.

“To be brutal, what he wants is he wants me to back independence if he backs a people's vote on Brexit. That's what he's trying to get to and that is not going to happen.

“So the Cabinet Secretary has a decision to make. Will he sit on the sidelines or will he get behind the best chance of stopping Brexit, which is a people's vote?”

Mr Russell replied: “Fortunately there are more reasonable voices who are arguing for this.

“For example, I had very constructive discussions with Hugo Dixon from the People's Vote which was an interesting and informative step forward.

"That is the type of constructive engagement I would commend."

He added: "I did note that [Mr Rennie’s] party leader... Vince Cable, at the start of the Liberal Democrat conference, demanded the SNP back the people's vote but also demanded that the people of Scotland should never be allowed to support independence again.

"That is no way to win friends and influence people."

The First Minister has repeatedly said she would not stand in the way of another vote, but has never endorsed one, possibly because it would set a precedent for independence.

But with Labour party conference voting to keep all options on the table if Brexit talks fail and there is no general election, the pressure on the SNP to shift position has increased.