A SENIOR SNP MP has warned his party the “window is closing” on holding an independence referendum this year - but has stressed it should still take place “as soon as possible”.

Kenny MacAskill, who represents East Lothian at Westminster has suggested the “calamity” caused by Brexit makes the case for Scottish independence even more compelling and urgent.

Mr MacAskill, who served as justice secretary under Alex Salmond, stressed that “to escape from this madhouse that is post-Brexit Britain”, Scotland should be an independent nation.

Speaking to the Daily Record, he said that amid the Covid-19 pandemic, any second independence referendum campaign “will have to be a different kind of campaign” - adding that increased postal voting due to social distancing measures “can only be a good thing” as he claims it will boost turnout.

Mr MacAskill has called on his SNP colleagues to step up their plans for a re-run of the 2014 referendum to take place before the end of the year.

He said: "Given the debacle that is Brexit, I think the opportunity to save ourselves from the calamity is even more important.

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"The window is closing. It will be difficult unless action is done. But it can be done.

"We're running out of time. Can a referendum be held this year? The answer is yes. It's difficult, but it can be held.”

Addressing the timing of a second independence referendum, Mr MacAskill added: "It has to depend upon on the state of the pandemic and the rollout of the vaccine, but I think the general view is we need it as soon as possible, because otherwise the fishing industry will be devastated, our manufacturing industry undermined, and our food and drink production, which we are so proud of, deeply damaged."

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At the weekend, the SNP launched an ‘independence taskforce’ - with deputy leader Keith Brown saying the party was now “ramping things up”, with the project “the final piece in the jigsaw that will help deliver independence”.

But unionists said it showed the SNP was deeply “out of touch” amid people’s concern about the pandemic, the vaccine rollout and economic recovery.

A flurry of recent polls have shown support for Scottish independence has grown to record levels, but Boris Johnson has given no indication whatsoever that he will grant permission for a second referendum to be held.