A VETERAN SNP politician who is calling for a consultative referendum on independence has suggested a Unionist boycott would not invalidate it.

Alex Neil, a former health secretary, wants to hold a new poll without waiting for the UK Government's agreement.

The MSP for Airdrie and Shotts also suggested there should be mass demonstrations and civil disobedience if UK ministers refuse to accept it – and drew comparisons with colonial India and protests against the USSR.

Put to him that there would be nothing pro-independence supporters could do in this situation, he said: "They said that about the Baltic states in terms of the USSR.

"Of course we all know people pressure – remember the people holding hands between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania?

"If it comes to that kind of demonstration by the Scottish people to force the issue, then that's what happens. If you look at India – India didn't have a referendum. It was things like the salt strike and things like that that forced the hand of the British Government. So we need to force their hand in other ways."

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Mr Neil made the comments during an interview on the BBC's Politics Scotland.

It comes just days after Boris Johnson rejected Nicola Sturgeon's demand for a second referendum.

The Prime Minister said he could not agree “to any request for a transfer of power that would lead to further independence referendums”.

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly ruled out holding an unofficial referendum, and refers to 2014's vote as the "gold standard".

However Mr Neil wants to hold another referendum without the UK Government's agreement, if such a move is declared lawful.

He told the BBC: "It's not a Catalonia situation where, according to the Unionists, the Spanish constitution made the Catalonian referendum unconstitutional and they boycotted it.

"There's a very big difference between boycotting an unconstitutional, illegal referendum and boycotting a legal referendum. 

"So the point I'm making is, let's see if a consultative referendum, at the right time, could be legal."

He added: "The political reality is, if you run a legal, consultative referendum, and the result was in favour of independence, the game's a bogey for the Union, because the political reality is – that's it."

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Asked about boycotts by Unionists, Mr Neil said the referendum being declared legal would be "a very important distinction, because if you decide to abstain in a legal referendum – as a third of the people do regularly in general elections, decide to abstain – it doesn't change the result".

He said: "And the rest of the people who want to vote in a legal referendum, even those who do not want to boycott it but want to vote against independence – they can't be held to ransom because the Conservative Party and their cronies are going to abstain."

However the MSP said a consensus should be built before the referendum is held, and suggested turnout would also be important.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie immediately dismissed the idea. 

He told the BBC a consultative referendum would be "dead in the water before it started, because people like me would not support it".