PATRICK Harvie has said a new vote on independence offers the “most realistic option” to protect Scotland’s partnership with the European Union.

The Scottish Greens co-convener welcomed the Scottish Government’s draft referendum Bill, published yesterday, and said Theresa May would be “foolish” to block it.

But by concluding a new referendum is “fast approaching” the “most realistic option” to maintain the country’s EU membership after Scots voted by 62 per cent to Remain, Harvie appears to go a step further than the First Minister, who continues to investigate ways Scotland could remain in the single market inside the UK after it has left the bloc.

His comments were made ahead of his keynote speech today to the Scottish Greens conference in Perth which is expected to be attended by around 400 delegates and are also in response to the Prime Minister’s insistence no part of the UK can have an “opt out” from Brexit.

“The Westminster government’s inability to acknowledge the overwhelming mandate for Remain in Scotland, or demonstrate any kind of flexibility the Union could take in the individual UK nations’ forging relations with Europe, shows that independence is quickly becoming the most realistic option for Scotland to shape its own partnership with the European Union,” said Harvie.

“Evidently the referendum results in 2014 and 2016 can no longer sit side by side because the UK that Scotland narrowly voted to remain a part of two years ago no longer exists.

“Every opportunity must be explored to keeping Scotland in the European Union and that now includes the option of an independence referendum.”

Scottish Greens have seen a resurgence since they campaigned alongside the SNP and wider independence movement for a Yes vote in 2014.

Its membership has increased from 1,700 to 9,000 and in May this year the party trebled its number of MSPs, gaining six seats to put it one ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

The party also strongly backed a remain vote on June 23 and a major debate at the three-day event will see delegates today discuss Scotland’s relationship with Europe.

The motion put down by Harvie and MSP Ross Greer picks up a key theme of last week’s SNP conference, condemning xenophobia and hate crime and also raises concerns about the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“We... condemn the disregard shown by leading Leave campaigners for the consequences which have included economic harm, uncertainty for EU citizens currently living in the UK, and a wave of racist and xenophobic hate crime.

“We express particular concern for our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, for whom the implications of an EU/non-EU border could have even more serious consequences,” it reads.

“We are conscious of the possibility that Scotland may be left with only one option for achieving the above, namely, independence and full membership of the European Union.

“We consider that the cause of Scotland in Europe must be an inherently outward-looking and internationalist one, and that in contrast with 2014 those opposing this course of action will be unable to portray membership of the UK as a safe, status quo option.”

Harvie presents his party as the Scottish Government’s “constructive critics” and he will point out how ministers have adopted Green policies in a number of areas, including that benefit sanctions should not be applied to devolved employment schemes.

But he will also say ministers need to take on board other Green concerns including more wide-ranging reforms of the Council Tax system.

“We recognise that a minority government must work toward some degree of consensus across parliament and I promise that our engagement with the SNP will always be constructive,” Harvie said.

“The government missed a key opportunity to prove its progressive credentials by reforming the Council Tax and support Green proposals for a fairer alternative, but there will be many more tests to come, including on aviation policy, where it’s unthinkable that the First Minister could set a credible green agenda while backing Heathrow expansion.”