THE SCOTTISH Tories have challenged Nicola Sturgeon to hold an early Holyrood election and fight it on a “clear and explicit call for a second independence referendum”.

But the SNP hit back saying the First Minister already had a mandate to hold indyref2.

During the Brexit debate in Westminster yesterday, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford called for the UK government to recognise that the Scottish Parliament had voted by 69 votes to 59 to allow a referendum on independence.

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Blackford told MPs “that if the First Minister of Scotland, with the backing of the Scottish Parliament, does decide to give the people of Scotland that opportunity to secure our future as a European nation, I would expect this House to recognise democracy and the position of the Scottish people, and to recognise that an independence referendum should, must and will take place”.

But the Tory MP Paul Masterton said if Blackford was “so confident in the views of the Scottish people and that they want a second independence referendum” then he should “suggest to his colleague the First Minister of Scotland to call an early Scottish parliamentary election, stand on a clear and explicit call for a second independence referendum, and put it to the test”.

He added: “The Scottish Conservative party is ready to go and will take the right honourable. Gentleman on and will prove that the Scottish people do not want a second independence referendum.”

Blackford accused the East Renfrewshire Tory of “bravado”.

“We have a mandate from the people of Scotland and what we are asking is that the Conservatives, if they are democrats, recognise that right of Scotland to determine its own future,” he added.

The National: SNP MP Angus MacNeilSNP MP Angus MacNeil

His colleague Angus MacNeil said if the Tories wanted to fight an election on independence then it should be on the understanding that if the SNP won a majority of seats “we would move to independence on that basis”.

Later, in the same debate, Mhairi Black said Brexit had proven that the UK was not a partnership of equals.

She told MPs that the “no-deal train [is] coming down the tracks towards us”.

“The people of Scotland will be watching this, and despite being told to vote no to independence to stay in the EU, despite voting to remain in the EU, despite sending back a majority of MPs on an anti-Brexit manifesto twice and despite the Scottish Government putting forward compromise proposals, here we are anyway – still ignored.

“I challenge one Unionist Member in this place to tell me what more SNP Members could do that we have not done to prevent Scotland from being dragged out of the EU and into no-deal chaos.

“I can hear their voices saying ‘you should have voted for the deal’, but they just make my case for me, because even if every single Scottish MP had supported the Prime Minister’s deal, she would still have lost. It makes no sense. This is not a Union of equals.”

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The Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP referenced Jim Sillars’s famous quote about Scotland being in control of its own future between 7am and 10pm on 18 September 2014 “and that the question was whether, at one minute past 10, we handed back that power or kept it for ourselves”.

Black said: “Now, we chose to hand that power back to this place. And look what has happened. I tell you ... if this is a Union of equals, the next time that Scotland is asked whether we want to be part of this Union, I’ll bet my money that the answer is different.”

Sturgeon has said she intends to “exercise the mandate” she has, and is due to make a statement on a second referendum imminently.

“When we get to the end of this chaotic phase of negotiations, which I hope is very soon, then I will set out how I intend to exercise that mandate,” the SNP leader told Sky News earlier this week. She added that it was “absurd” that “a handful of DUP MPs had more sway” Scoland’s future than Holyrood.