A CONSTITUTIONAL expert has torpedoed the SNP’s strategy for independence – warning “there’s no such thing” as holding a de facto referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday announced she intends to hold a re-run of the 2014 referendum using Holyrood legislation, if the Supreme Court confirms it is within the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

However, if there are no legal options open to the Scottish Government, the First Minister said the SNP would fight the next UK general election as a “de facto referendum” on independence.

But Professor James Mitchell from Edinburgh University, has warned that “there’s no such thing” as holding a de facto referendum, adding that the Scottish Government cannot “dictate the terms” of a Westminster election.

He added: “An election is simply not a referendum, a de facto referendum or any other kind of referendum.”

In a de facto referendum at the next general election, The Scottish Government is likely to focus on the popular votes cast in Scotland and equate them to Yes/No.

If the SNP is successful, it is likely that Scottish ministers would attempt to begin negotiations with the UK Government over independence.

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister was forced to clarify his remarks on what would be necessary for a general election to give the Scottish Government a mandate to start independence negotiations.

John Swinney had initially suggested this could happen if the SNP won a majority of Scottish MPs in the next UK election.

However he later said on Twitter he had misheard the interviewer’s question, making clear that “nothing else” but a majority of votes would do.

Prof Mitchell questioned plans to use the next Westminster vote in this way, as he insisted it is “not for a political party to dictate the terms of an election”.

Speaking to ITV Border’s Representing Border programme, the academic said: “There are elections and referendums and they are quite distinct.

“In an election the vote is allowed to choose what he or she wishes to choose to determine their vote. It doesn’t have to be about one issue, it is rarely about one issue, but about a range of issues.

“It is not for a political party to dictate the terms of an election.

“In a referendum the question is very clear, that is the whole point of a referendum, it is focused. There isn’t the same focus in an election.”