BORIS Johnson will not agree to a second independence referendum and it will likely not take place in Nicola Sturgeon's preferred timeframe, an SNP MSP has said.

Michelle Thomson, a former MP, said she did not think there will be a referendum by 2023 and the SNP should instead use the next UK general election to "shift the dial". 

She also said Scots would vote No if a referendum was held tomorrow because of a lack of "worked-through answers" to key questions. 

Ms Thomson made the comments during an event held at Edinburgh's Queen's Hall on Tuesday evening, where she also said Mr Johnson would be a "numpty" to let Scotland go.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to hold another referendum before the end of 2023, Covid permitting. 

The First Minister's policy is to seek the UK Government's agreement to hold a second vote, as happened in 2014.

She has said that if Downing Street keeps blocking Indyref2, MSPs will pass a Referendum Bill regardless, but this is likely to be challenged and struck down in court.

Speaking at the Big Indy Debate, Ms Thomson said: "I don't believe for a minute that Boris is going to give us a referendum. It's not in his interests to do so.

"Scotland is so asset rich, he'd be a numpty to let us go."

The Falkirk East MSP said the SNP and the wider Yes movement have a "great deal" of work to do around issues such as currency and a central bank.

She added: "There's a great deal of work to be done, because if there were to be an independence referendum tomorrow, as it stands at the moment, without those worked-through answers, we would fail."

Asked if she thought there will be a referendum by 2023, Ms Thomson said: "I would incline to say no.

"In that respect, I think a general election – I think there will be one. 

"I hear stories from Westminster, they're already planning that, and guess what – the Tories are confident about winning. 

"So there is a question, then, about what is the mandate for 2023. I think that's a genuine question."

She added: "My own personal view is that I think that the SNP needs to up the ante on that mandate – what a vote for the SNP means. 

"That's only one mechanism though, of course. There are a great deal of others we need to deploy."

Ms Thomson was also asked if the First Minister should request a Section 30 order "and get knocked back before 2023". 

She said: "No, I don't believe so, and the reason I don't believe so is it goes back to the early ground-setting, in terms of we're coming out of a pandemic. 

"A lot of people – and we can't forget that – a lot of people are hurting. 

"A lot of people are on their financial hunkers and they need support. 

"People have lost friends and so on, and there's going to be a period in time coming out of that, we've got a great deal of work to be done. 

"I don't believe she should, and at that point I think we should be using the next general election to shift the dial and we've got a lot of work to do."

Asked if she was suggesting using the next general election as a de facto referendum, she said: "No, I'm not suggesting that. 

"I think we need to do more around what a vote for the SNP is."

The next UK general election is due to be held in 2024.

Ms Thomson was previously the MP for Edinburgh West, during which time she was involved in a controversy surrounding property deals.

Chris McEleny, general secretary of Alex Salmond's Alba Party, said the suggestion "that the next UK general election should be used to seek yet another mandate for an independence referendum simply won’t wash with the independence movement".

An SNP spokesman said: “There is a cast-iron democratic mandate for a referendum in the current Holyrood term.

"The First Minister has made clear that steering the country safely through the pandemic is the most urgent priority, but that we intend to exercise that mandate in the first half of this parliamentary term once the Covid crisis has passed.

"Boris Johnson’s bid to defy democracy is simply unsustainable.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “The reason there is unlikely to be a divisive second referendum by 2023 is because the people of Scotland don’t want one.

“It’s just a shame that Nicola Sturgeon won’t listen and keeps talking up the prospect of an unwanted contest, when she and her ministers should be focused on Covid recovery, the ambulance crisis, and the climate emergency.

“And the next UK General Election, when it comes, must not become a one-issue debate about the constitution – voters deserve better than that.”