A SENIOR SNP MP has flatly contradicted his Westminster leader by saying there is “no sign whatsoever” that Boris Johnson will grant an independence referendum next year.

Angus MacNeil said the Prime Minister would refuse out of an “understandable” desire for “self-preservation”, rather than permit a vote the polls suggest he would lose.

He said the SNP’s policy of “gambling” on a different outcome had “bizarrely and ironically” made the PM the most important person on the independence issue.

The Western Isles MP said the right to call a referendum should sit with the Scottish people, not Mr Johnson, but “unfortunately that is not the case at the moment”.

Mr MacNeil’s comments, in a new podcast with Tommy Sheridan on the Kremlin-backed Sputnik news outlet, fly in the face of recent gung-ho remarks by Ian Blackford.

The SNP Westminster leader last month insisted that Indyref2 would be next year, assuming a pro-independence majority at next May’s Holyrood election.

He told the Sunday National: “That referendum will take place and we need to plan that that referendum must take place in 2021.”

However, in a coded dig at Mr Blackford, Mr MacNeil said politicians had a duty to be “candid” about the prospects of Mr Johnson granting a Section 30 order which would transfer referendum powers to Holyrood, something he has already ruled out doing while he remains PM.

Mr MacNeil said: “It is our duty to be as candid as we can in our communications with the Scottish people about this, and especially with those who are anxious to see the 58 per cent who want independence.

“I agreed with Ian Blackford when he said the right to call a referendum must sit with the people of Scotland and not with Boris Johnson in London.

“Unfortunately, that is not the case at the moment.

“When we talk about going into an election asking the UK Government for the powers, therefore they’ve got the right to hold back the powers.”

Mr MacNeil and Inverclyde Councillor Chris McEleny advocate a Plan B on independence - taking a simple SNP election win as a mandate for leaving the UK in the absence of a Section 30 order.

Nicola Sturgeon dismisses the idea, saying it would not be internationally recognised, and an agreed referendum of the kind seen in 2014 remains the gold standard.

She recently said that if voters returned another pro_yes parliament in May, she would want Indyref2 to be held in the first half of the next five-year Holyrood term.

However many in her party wonder if she has any fallback plan if Mr Johnson simply refuses.

Mr MacNeil said it was “disappointing” the Scottish Government was not doing more work on the issue.

He said: “The worst scenario would be doing the 2021 election without a Plan B, without any resort to ballot boxes at an election, hoping you can have a referendum, and then finding out afterwards, again, that the referendum is thwarted, and then you having to wait until 2026.

“Which would make the 2026 election… the 2021 election for slow learners, when we would use a Plan B at the ballot boxes of the election for independence.”

He said the next five months gave the SNP a chance to pivot to a Plan B. 

“At the moment, it’s looking that we’re gambling that Boris Johnson gives a referendum, and indeed the policy makes Boris Johnson the most important person, bizarrely and ironically, in the whole independence jigsaw, which should be a jigsaw of self-determination.

“It’s not. It seems to be a jigsaw of Boris determination, subject to the Boris veto.”

Asked if there was any sign that Mr Johnson would grant a Section 30 if another pro-Independence majority was elected at Holyrood, the MP said: “On the current set-up, asking for a Section 30, will they acquiesce and give a Section 30 to get an answer they don’t want?

"No, there is no sign whatsoever that they will do that, and for very obvious reasons of self-preservation and preservation of their political position.

“They can see the polls as well as everybody else - 14 polls on the trot are saying that Scottish independence would come their way.”

He said it would be “easy” for Mr Johnson to refuse a request for a Section 30 from another politician, especially when both sides could point to their own mandate for their position.

However he said the UK Government would find it far harder to refuse a direct demand from the people at the ballot box under a Plan B, as ignoring them would put the UK in the same club of international pariahs as Belarus, with its repressive leader Alexander Lukashenko.

He said: "They won’t stand in the way of the people. They won’t do a Lukashenko. 

"The Tory MPs I know do not want to be... when they go to meetings around the world, in the same bracket as Lukashenko of Belarus, not listening to the people.

“If we remove the point of the Boris veto, use the election as the plebiscite for independence, then at that point they will yield to the people.

“But are they going to yield to a request for a Section 30? No. They are not going to be the nursemaids to an independent Scotland, and that, probably, from their point of view we have to concede, is understandable.

“And because their point of view is understandable, we have then got to change and react to our own situation to make sure that we have removed the Boris veto from the equation, and we’re going direct to the people to ask them, Do they want to be independent or not?

“We’ve got to recognise that either answer is possible, but we also have to recognise that if the answer is positive for independence, then the UK Government will be responding to that, otherwise internationally they will have a price to pay for their reputation.”

Asked why the SNP leadership was refusing to countenance a back-up Plan B, Mr MAcNeil said he couldn’t offer any sensible explanation for coming “up against a logic wall”.