An SNP MP has said Nicola Sturgeon cannot delay a second Scottish independence vote, despite the UK winning a second extension to the Brexit process.
Angus MacNeil said while Theresa May had persuaded European Union leaders to give the UK more time to agree on its departure process, the SNP must not follow suit.
The long-serving MP tweeted: “The #Brexit can has been kicked down the road again … ..we cannot follow suit by kicking the #indyref2 can behind it.”
His comment came as a former candidate for the party’s depute leadership urged Ms Sturgeon to stage a second independence referendum in September – five years on from the first vote.
Chris McEleny, also a member of the party’s ruling national executive, said it was time for independence supporters to “press with everything we have” for a second ballot.
With the UK now having until October 31 to complete the Brexit process he said that a “referendum on Scottish independence before October will allow the 200k EU nationals who live here to vote in it and allow Scotland to choose its own future with Europe”.
The Scottish First Minister has repeatedly pledged to set out her position on a possible second independence referendum when there is more “clarity” on Brexit.
While she said she was “relieved” the UK would not be “crashing out” of the EU on Friday without a deal, she said the Prime Minister must use this additional time to stage a second European referendum.
Ms Sturgeon called for Government talks with Labour, which are taking place in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock, to be opened up to other parties and the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales.
She said that Scotland remaining inside the European single market, allowing the country to benefit from free movement of people, was the minimum the PM would need to offer for her talks to be successful.
In a letter to Mrs May the SNP leader said: “We now have the gift of more time from the EU, and that must be used constructively to re-set the UK Government approach.
“Your ongoing talks with the leader of the Opposition should now broaden to include other parties, the devolved administrations, business and civic society, and open up the range of options on the table in an effort to reach a genuine consensus.
“If such talks are to stand any chance of success you must be prepared to recognise in particular that it is essential for Scotland, at the very least, to stay inside the Single Market and continue to benefit from freedom of movement.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “Further, and more fundamentally, the Scottish Government considers that any deal agreed by the UK Parliament should be put to another referendum, with the alternative proposition on the ballot paper being to remain in the EU.
“The extension to 31 October provides enough time to do this, and it is essential that no time is lost in making the necessary preparations.”
However Mr McEleny, the SNP leader on Inverclyde Council, argued: “People in Scotland should be given the opportunity to voice their preference on the future they want for Scotland.
“Before the UK leaves the EU, it is now time to press with everything we have to give people the opportunity to decide if they want Scotland’s future relationship with the EU decided for them or if they want to take that decision into their own hands by deciding that Scotland should become an independent country.
“An independence referendum in September of this year would give us that opportunity.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, urged the First Minister to rule out holding another independence vote.
Ms Nash, a former Labour MP, said: “The SNP is deeply split over its plans to scrap the pound, and now there are fresh splits emerging over Nicola Sturgeon’s indyref2 strategy.
“It is deeply irresponsible and reckless to advocate a divisive second independence referendum as early as this autumn.
“With the Brexit deadline extended and further uncertainty for our economy, the very last thing we need is even more constitutional uncertainty.
“It’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to listen to the majority of people in Scotland and drop the threat of an unwanted second independence referendum.”