NICOLA Sturgeon is being urged by one of her MPs to prepare for a snap independence referendum if the UK looks set to crash out of the European Union without a deal.

The call has been made by the SNP MP Angus MacNeil who wants the First Minister to make plans for a vote to be held before the end of March to avoid a cliff edge Brexit.

“I think the Scottish Government has to start communicating possible dates and possible scenarios.

“If we are out in a hard Brexit at the end of March we need a referendum around that period…the end of March is a strong possibility,” he told the Sunday National. We should know [what sort of Brexit is happening] by October or November, but the time is then very short. We need to be on a ‘on your marks, get ready, set and go’.

“If we get a transition deal we have perhaps a little more time to play with.

“We have to set out our stall soon to hold an independence referendum before we are out – either out of the EU at the end of March or out of the transition period.”

He added: “I’d like the Scottish Government to communicate with people their thinking on the range of scenarios.”

MacNeil is one of the longest serving SNP MPs, representing Na h-Eileanan an lar since 2005. In July he called for a referendum to be held “within the year” when the Government narrowly avoided being defeated in the Commons over Brexit-related legislation.

He spoke out as Theresa May received an outright and humiliating rejection by European leaders of her Chequers Brexit proposals on Thursday at their summit in Salzburg.

The development prompted renewed speculation about a Tory backbench rebellion

She will now have to come up with a new set of proposals before the next European summit, which is scheduled for October 18 and 19.

A special summit has been called for November 13 – which is currently the last chance for the UK and EU to reach an agreement on the withdrawal deal and the nature of the future relationship between the two sides.

May last year refused to grant Nicola Sturgeon a Section 30 order which facilitated the 2014 vote.

But MacNeil said he believed the Scottish Government should press on with a new referendum regardless of getting this legal mechanism.

“Theresa May is a lame duck across Europe” he said.

“We could have held it before [without the Section 30 order] but Alex [Salmond] decided he would go down a different route.”

The First Minister has stated that she will update Holyrood on her timetable for a new independence referendum this autumn “once the terms of Brexit are clear”.

She wants Westminster to delay Brexit to allow more time for the negotiations .

On Friday, following the rejection of the Chequers plan in Salzburg, she renewed calls for the UK to remain in the single market and customs union.

MacNeil’s intervention comes just weeks after an opinion poll by Deltapoll reported there would be majority support for Yes – when the “don’t knows” were excluded – if a referendum was held after Brexit.