THE “chaos” at Westminster which saw seven Labour MPs quit their party yesterday may “intensify” the independence debate, according to the boss of an influential think tank.

Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations in Edinburgh, said the UK political crisis triggered by Brexit could take a long time to resolve.

“The UK’s imploding politics could take many years to recover from the current crisis. If Brexit were halted through another referendum that recovery might be faster but even so the deep divisions across the UK and in particular within England would not be overcome in a hurry,” she said.

Asked what impact the Labour split would have on Scotland’s constitutional future, she added: “That will depend whether the split increases political chaos at Westminster or helps to move MPs towards a people’s vote. If Brexit goes ahead, then the independence debate in Scotland will surely intensify.”

READ MORE: Scotland may not be alone in heading for a vote on its future in the UK

Hughes said the situation will also focus attention on “Scottish Labour’s failure to oppose Brexit or call for a people’s vote” despite some politicians from the party doing so.

The National: Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, warned the UK's political chaos could last for yearsKirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, warned the UK's political chaos could last for years

Politicians from the SNP and the Scottish Greens underlined the case for independence as they reacted to the announcement by the Labour MPs to quit and form the Independent Group in the Commons.

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, wrote on Twitter: “Westminster is failing Scotland. The UK is on the brink of a Brexit disaster, while Labour and the Tories are both at war with themselves. Westminster has proven itself incapable of standing up for Scotland’s interests - the case for independence is clearer than ever.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf tweeted: “Labour Party eating itself alive during an era when we need the best in Govt and the best in Opposition simply underlines the chaos in Westminster. And you wonder why millions in Scotland want to take our own future in our own hands? Every day that passes, our case gets stronger.”

Stewart McDonald, the Glasgow South MP, wrote: “The new group of independents at Westminster are right on one thing: UK politics is broken. @theSNP is working to protect Scotland’s future. Joins us on the campaign for independence in the EU.”

During a visit to Paris to meet French government ministers, Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “In Scotland, if you are disillusioned with the Westminster parties and want to be part of a progressive, outward looking movement.”

READ MORE: Spot the difference between Labour's advert in Scotland, England and Wales

Greens MSP, Ross Greer, added: “Even the name of this new centre-right group reveals just how England-centric and Westminster-centric it is. I can’t imagine an anti-independence outfit calling itself the Independent Group will be able to attract many voters in Scotland, regardless of whether they’re Yes or No.We are just weeks away from the devastation of a No Deal Brexit and instead of taking on the Tories, Labour politicians are fighting among themselves. They’re doing an outstanding job of showing why Scotland would do a damn site better governing ourselves than being tethered to this shambles.”

The Labour split came 39 days before the UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March, yet without any agreement in the Commons over what the terms of the exit will be. Theresa May has been unable to unite her party behind the deal she made with the EU with Tory Eurosceptics against its Irish border backstop arrangements which they say will prevent the UK striking international trade deals. The DUP, which props up the minority Conservative government, also reject the backstop believing it weakens the position of Northern Ireland in the UK as it allows it closer alignment with the EU.

The First Minister has said she will set out her thinking on a independence referendum “in weeks”.