IAN Blackford has stressed that Boris Johnson cannot be a “democracy denier” and must allow a Scottish independence referendum if the SNP secures a majority at next year’s Holyrood election.

The SNP leader at Westminster was speaking the day after the Prime Minister visited Scotland for the first time since last year’s general election – and denied he was exploiting the Covid-19 crisis to try and shore up support for the union.

Support for Scottish independence has surged in recent months and hours before Mr Johnson arrived in Orkney, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that his presence shows Scotland has “its future decided by politicians we didn’t vote for, taking us down a path we haven’t chosen”.

After the general election in December, in which the SNP won 48 seats, the Prime Minister rejected a request from Ms Sturgeon to grant the powers needed to hold another independence vote and he has repeatedly said since that he will not allow one.

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But pressure has ramped up in recent months and two recent Panelbase polls have put support for independence, when undecided voters are removed, at 54 per cent, while also predicting the SNP will win a majority in next May’s Holyrood election.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Blackford said: “I’d simply say to Boris Johnson that he has to recognise the will of the people of Scotland and the expression of support that they’re giving to independence.

“What we will see next year in the elections is a very strong support for the SNP and for independence.

“Boris Johnson has to recognise that vote, he has to recognise democracy. He cannot be a democracy denier.

“We will win this argument, we will have that referendum in Scotland.

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“Why is it right that we should be held in a union against the wishes of the people of Scotland?”

Mr Blackford declined to comment on whether the party will seek legal action if a referendum is denied again.

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is due to meet Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay on Friday and is expected to lobby for greater fiscal powers for Scotland.

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Mr Blackford said: “What devolution has exposed is the limitations that we have.

“We don’t have the borrowing powers to be able to take our decisions to make sure we’re investing, not just in health, but in economic recovery as well.”

He welcomed £1.9 billion which will be sent to Scotland from the UK Government, as announced by Mr Barclay ahead of his visit to Edinburgh.

But Mr Blackford said “it would be normal to expect” the Scottish Government to have the necessary powers to be able to react to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Westminster Government has repeatedly rejected calls from Scottish ministers, along with other devolved administrations, for more flexibility in borrowing and other fiscal powers.