BORIS Johnson’s former top adviser has claimed that senior SNP figures have “made quietly clear” to the UK Government that they would be happy if a referendum on independence didn't take place before 2024.

Dominic Cummings, who quit as the Prime Minister’s top adviser last year, has suggested Nicola Sturgeon “just wants to be boss up there and whinge” instead of being serious about holding a re-run of the 2014 vote on independence.

The First Minister has consistently said she wants to hold a referendum “Covid permitting” by the end of 2023 and told her SNP national conference last month that she will set out her plans next year.

Ms Sturgeon also said she expected the independence campaign to ramp up again next spring and her Programme for Government in September included civil servants being tasked with drawing up the renewed case for independence.

Mr Cummings today held an ‘ask me anything’ virtual event in response to claims about Number 10 reportedly holding Christmas parties last year, despite London being under tight Covid regulations.

Asked how the UK Government should deal with the SNP’s repeated calls for a second independence referendum, Mr Cummings said that officials should “ignore it”.

He added: “She doesn’t even want it now she just wants to be boss up there and whinge.

“Her network have made quietly clear to Whitehall they are happy without a referendum pre-2024.

“She only wants it when confident she’ll win.”

Alba party depute leader, Kenny MacAskill, said: “This rings true and is consistent with the absence of any preparations for an independence white paper, the failure to update the independence case post Brexit, no planning for the referendum and zero expenditure for explaining the case.

“The Scottish Government I was a part of committed £450,000 to  ensure the Scottish public were aware of and had access to information on independence. Yesterday in the Budget, the Scottish Government committed zero for that purpose.

“The SNP leadership are playing games while the poor bloody infantry of the SNP members are marched up and down the hill on a regular basis but it is the low paid and those struggling on benefits who are paying the price”.

A source close to the First Minsiter said: “This is utter nonsense.

"Dominic Cummings knows precisely zero about the First Minister’s intentions – his clueless bid to suggest otherwise suggests his grasp of the facts is as suspect as his eyesight.”  

Also at the event, Mr Cummings claimed the Prime Minister knew about an alleged party in Downing Street last year, but did not attend.

Boris Johnson’s former chief aide was asked: “Did the Prime Minister know about/attend the party, however fleetingly?”

He responded: “He knew but I think did not attend, tho remember the geography – to get upstairs he has to walk past that area where he could see it – if he was not Chequers…”

It is not clear which alleged gathering Mr Cummings was referring to.

He also claimed there are “multiple people” with different agendas leaking information that is damaging to the Prime Minister.

The PM’s former chief aide was asked: “Why is it rocket science for Boris to figure out who is leaking to the press?

“Clearly there cannot be many people who are able to access security footage from a year ago, and to do so they would need some sort of clearance. Same as the footage from Hancock’s office.

“Also do you think this a co-ordinated effort by one team to leak damaging things for Boris or it is multiple people all with their own agendas?”

Cummings responded: “There are multiple people leaking with multple (sic) agendas & the video was not security footage.”