SCOTTISH ministers are preparing to fast-track indyref2 legislation in order to hold a new vote in 2020.

In a statement to MSPs on Tuesday, Scottish Brexit Secretary Michael Russell said the Government’s intention was “to offer the people of Scotland a choice on independence later in the term of this Parliament” but “should circumstances change, we would have the option of seeking Parliament’s agreement to proceed on an accelerated timetable”.

That follows Nicola Sturgeon’s comments earlier this week, when she said a new vote could be held in late 2020.

Yesterday, the Government published the 168-page Referendums (Scotland) Bill. It doesn’t specify the date or the question of any vote, instead leaving it to Ministers to fill in the blanks using secondary legislation. It effectively sets the rules for any referendum “that is now or in the future within the competence of the Scottish Parliament”.

But the Scottish Tories’ constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins dismissed this, saying it was “a Trojan horse” for a “wildcat indyref 2”.

Russell said the opposition wanted to leave the question about Scotland’s future to a “Tory Prime Minister —whoever that is — to decide”.

“That is not democracy, and that is not what we will be doing,” he added.

The Government hope the Bill, which been ruled within Holyrood’s remit by Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, becomes law by the end of this year. As Holyrood has a pro-independence majority, there should be little difficulty in the legislation passing.

In his statement to MSPs, Russell said that while the SNP already had a mandate for an independence vote, a new Tory prime minister attempting “a no-deal Brexit” would necessitate a “greater urgency”.

Russell said: “The Tories are heading for a no-deal Brexit – and some positively welcome that disastrous direction of travel.”

He added: “A Boris Johnson premiership is no longer a bad joke, it is a frightening possibility. Substitute Raab or Leadsom or Gove or Hancock or any of the others for Johnston and the situation is no better.

“Most are heading with pleasure to the cliff-edge. But Scotland must not be forced against our will to go with them.”

Russell continued: “Although we will do everything possible to stop it, and everything we can to mitigate it – it will be yet further proof that the conditions set out in our manifesto in April 2016 have been met in full,” he said. “And there will be even greater urgency to give Scotland the choice of a different future.”

Responding for the Tories, Tomkins said he agreed with Russell that “Scottish independence could be established only by a referendum”.

“Clearly, we could not have independence without a lawful referendum,” he added. “However, what are the other matters that the SNP ministers are proposing to put to a referendum? They claim that the bill is a framework bill for referendums in general. I suspect that it is no such thing and that, in reality, it is a Trojan horse for a wildcat indyref2.

“However, the minister could prove me wrong. What are the other issues – besides independence – that he intends to put to the people in a referendum?”

Tomkins also warned that the legislation would give SNP ministers “the power to set any referendum question, at any time, on any matter of their choosing.”

“It’s a power grab on an industrial scale,” he claimed.

Scottish Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie, welcomed the Bill, but said he would also be willing to work with the Tories and any other political party that had “serious proposals to make the process more democratic and to ensure that powers are properly with the Parliament, not ministers”.

He added: “We have done that before, and we are willing to do it again if there are serious proposals – even if some political parties have not recognised that the collapse in their vote last week means and necessitates a change in their position in relation to the political crisis that we are living through.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard claimed the Scottish Government was “seeking to advance the cause of the break-up of the United Kingdom”.

He said the SNP’s “obsession with the creation of a separate Scottish state” was a “distraction”.