A SENIOR SNP politician has accused Nicola Sturgeon's Government of "dithering" over the prospect of holding a second ballot on independence.

Angus MacNeil said the Scottish Government must be "decisive and not dither" when it comes to holding a consultative referendum - which could be held without the consent of Westminster.

He added the SNP should consider "all the options" for winning independence, not just a referendum.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already rejected a call from Ms Sturgeon for the powers to hold a legally binding ballot to be transferred to Holyrood.

Mr MacNeil, the Western Isles MP, said that "sitting on our hands and crying this is an unsustainable Westminster position" was not the correct response.

Writing on the Politics Home website, he said: "All avenues of the consultative referendum should be explored now and the Scottish Government should be decisive and not dither as it did over the Section 30 request.

"That will be a hard sentence for many of my colleagues to read but dither it was.

"Now the Scottish Government is dithering over establishing the legality of a consultative referendum and that is another hard fact to swallow."

His comments come after fellow SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC called for preparations for a consultative referendum to get under way.

Ms Sturgeon has shied away from holding a consultative ballot - saying any referendum must be legal and internationally recognised.

Speaking at the end of January, she was clear she would not sanction a "wildcat" unauthorised referendum, as was held in Catalonia.

But she added there could come a time when the Scottish Government would consider holding a consultative vote, if this was ruled to be legal by the courts.

Mr MacNeil, chair of Westminster's International Trade Select Committee, argued other approaches must be considered now.

He said: "Today, with over 50 per cent support in successive polls, independence has a choice of legal and democratic routes with which to go forward."

The MP said a "move away" from the referendum approach would give Scottish voters the option of "democratic expression at an election, either by majority of seats or votes".

Mr MacNeil and SNP councillor Chris McEleny had wanted their "plan B" approach - in which it was claimed a pro-independence majority in Scotland in either a Holyrood or Westminster election would be a mandate to open negotiations with the UK - debated at the SNP conference.

The pair failed in their bid to have the idea discussed at the gathering in Aberdeen in October, with SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford saying then the party should "demand and win the gold standard for democracy and for our country".

Mr MacNeil said: "We need independence to move our society forward in Scotland, to match our Nordic neighbours, ditto our Celtic cousins in Ireland.

"They can set their own immigration policies, taxes, environmental laws, energy laws, methods of tackling societal inequality, etc.

"Stuff all normal nations do, and mostly nations do different from each other, but do as deemed best for them, in each democracy.

"So, if we discount doing nothing bar shouting how unfair it all is, all the options open have surely to be considered."