A FORMER chair of the Scottish Conservatives has advised Boris Johnson to grant a second independence referendum without delay if the SNP win a mandate for it next year.

Peter Duncan, who was also the shadow Scottish Secretary, said that saying no indefinitely was a doomed strategy, and would only “fan the flames for independence”.

The former Galloway MP said: “Carping negativity looks likely to end in failure.”

Mr Duncan’s intervention comes after a series of polls have shown majority support for Yes and the SNP on course for another landslide win at Holyrood in 2021. 

Earlier this year, Boris Johnson refused to grant Nicola Sturgeon’s request for the power to hold Indyref2 after the SNP won 47 of Scotland’s 59 seats at the general election.

The Prime Minister said Ms Sturgeon was bound by her “personal promise” that the 2014 referendum was a once-in-a-generation decision, and the UK Government would “continue to uphold the democratic decision of the Scottish people” that saw a 55-45 vote for No.  

He said another referendum would “continue the political stagnation that Scotland has seen for the last decade, with Scottish schools, hospitals and jobs again left behind because of a campaign to separate the UK”.

However the Sunday Times reported Mr Duncan, Scotland’s only Tory MP from 2001 to 2005, saying that was not a sustainable response.

He said:  The way for unionists to win the argument the argument on independence is not to be seen to deny any clear mandate for e referendum that may exist after the elections next year.

“A ‘no, never’ approach will fan the flames for independence, as the smarter advisers in Downing Street are now making clear.

“The front-foot approach that I would recommend means that there needs to be a plan for an early response after May’s election - dragging feet has never yet been a good platform for winning any argument.

“The route to defending the Union is to be prepared, then proactive and positive.

“Carping negativity looks likely to end in failure.”

Mr Duncan, who is now a communications consultant, said Brexit had fundamentally changed the argument for both the Yes and No sides, and although a driver of support for Yes, also brought tougher choices with it.

He said: “For some, it may accentuate the argument for separation, but nationalists will have to argue that a union with Brussels is more important to Scotland than a union across the UK - that’s a tough argument to make, and a very difficult one to win.”

Despite Mr Johnson’s flat refusal to countenance Indyref2, senior figures in his own party have already acknowledged that another SNP majority makes it highly likely.

Last November, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the SNP would have a “democratic mandate” for  Indyref2 if they won another outright majority at Holyrood.

He said he was agreeing with Ruth Davidson, who said last summer that an outright SNP majority in 2021 would trigger the Indyref2 process, just as the SNP majority of 2011 led to the referendum of 2014.

Referring to the legal instrument for transferring referendum powers to Holyrood, Mr Jack told the BBC: “The democratic mandate for a Section 30 order is a matter for 2021. 

“We’ll see whether or not the Scottish National Party get a majority then.” 

“I mean the Scottish National Party - not in collaboration with other parties, not in any alliances - but a Scottish National Party majority, which is what Ruth Davidson pointed out some months ago.”

Last June, Ms Davidson had said: "If she [Ms Sturgeon] puts it in a [Holyrood] manifesto that she's going to hold another referendum and she wins a majority outright, then she can negotiate with the UK government in the same way as happened last time.” 

Mr Jack has since tried to back away from his remarks, but Ms Davidson lacks his conveniently low profile.

Her return to the Holyrood frontline, leading at FMQs in place of new Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, means the SNP can remind her of her position every week. 

SNP Depute leader Keith Brown said: “The Tories still don’t get it.

“This is about democracy and not tactics.

“It is simply not credible or democratic for Westminster to try to dictate Scotland’s future.

“The opinion polls confirm majority support for independence is becoming the settled will of the people of Scotland and it is the Scottish people who Boris Johnson must listen to.

“That’s why the SNP will be campaigning for every vote in next year’s election to make sure Scotland sends a message to Downing Street that cannot be ignored.”