FORMER SNP leader Alex Salmond has said Nicola Sturgeon would have to “act quickly” to hold a second independence referendum after a hard Brexit.

“If it’s a hard Brexit, we are going to have a very sharp timescale.” he told a magazine, adding that independence would be the only way avoid the damage of the UK crashing out of the EU.

“This impacts very much on the timing Nicola will be considering for a second referendum. The nature of Brexit to a great extent dictates the nature of a referendum.”

The former First Minister also suggested Sturgeon could call another vote before the end of the two-year transition deal May is hoping for.

“If we had a transitional stage of two years, that dictates the timescale ... we have to avoid a situation where we were excluded from the single market,” Salmond said.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As the First Minister has made clear, we believe the people of Scotland should have a choice about our future direction as a country.

“That means that, at the end of the period of negotiation with the EU, when the terms of Brexit will be clearer, we will come back to parliament to set out our judgment on the best way forward at that time, including our view on the precise timescale for offering people a choice over the country’s future.

“In the meantime, we will redouble our efforts to seek to influence the Brexit talks in a way that protects Scotland’s interests.”

Salmond also told the magazine he was unfazed by criticism of his decision to host a chat show on Russian state broadcaster Russia Today (RT), and said he thought he would be a good interviewer.

“I’m absolutely convinced, because of the 30 years’ experience, I know how to get people to say more about themselves,” he said. “I know how to get people comfortable and once you get people comfortable they’ll have something very interesting to tell you.

“The interviews we’ve done and the ones we’ve got in the can ... I have got some really interesting revelations, believe me, which I know I wouldn’t have got [on other TV channels].”

Salmond explained that the purpose of his show would be to find “off-beat stories” within the “undergrowth” of British politics, away from the Westminster bubble.

Sturgeon has distanced herself from Salmond’s decision to do a deal with RT.

The SNP leader said the show would likely be “interesting” but said, had she been asked, she would have advised her predecessor against working for the channel. She added that his links to RT would not get in the way of her or her party speaking out about Russia.