SCOTTISH Labour leader Richard Leonard's position on a second Scottish independence referendum led to him being branded an "anti-democrat" this morning. 

In an appearance on Politics Scotland, Leonard - who oversaw a massive drop in support for Scottish Labour at May's EU election - suggested explicitly pro-independence parties pushing for a second independence referendum in their manifestoes winning a majority at Holyrood would not be a sufficient mandate to hold indyref2.

READ MORE: Fact-check: Richard Leonard claims Scots don't want indyref2

Leonard started the interview by pushing for more "clarity" in the UK party's Brexit stance. Scottish Labour's official position is to hold a People's Vote on a final deal and campaign for Remain - the UK party also backs a confirmatory referendum, but leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he will be neutral on its outcome.

Journalist Gordon Brewer then asked Leonard about the other referendum which many are looking to be held again. The MSP had previously said Labour should refuse to grant a Section 30 order, but Brewer pointed out that his view has changed a little. He asked if Leonard accepts Corbyn's position that Section 30 would be blocked in the first few years of a Labour government, but could be granted after that.

The Scottish Labour leader replied: “Where there has been some discussion is around if there was to be a renewed mandate, which showed not only electoral but demonstratable public support for the holding of a second referendum then there would need to be some consideration given to that."

Brewer responded: “As you know, we journalists look for weasel words Richard Leonard. I think I’ve just detected a whole sack full of ferrets in what you just said.

"When you talked about a new mandate you said not just electorally but in terms of public support. So are you saying that pro-independence parties winning the next Scottish election on manifestoes that said quite clearly that a vote for them was a vote for another independence referendum – are you saying if they won that election that would not count as a mandate or it would count as a mandate?”

Leonard went on to say it hd been "just five years" since the first indyref and suggested longer was needed before a fresh vote was held. He added "all of the evidence shows that even people who voted Yes in 2014, even some people who are supporting the SNP do not think that the time is now for a second independence referendum".

The host pushed for an answer on what would constitute "another mandate" to the Labour Party, and the pair shared an exchange more like a Punch and Judy skit than a political interview.

Leonard: “Well I think there would need to be demonstrable public opinion which is in favour of a second independence referendum. So it’s not just about parliamentary arithmetic.”

Brewer: “Sorry, public opinion is winning an election.”

Leonard: “It’s also … well … that’s … of course that’s a part of it.”

Brewer: “A part of it?!”

Leonard: “Of course that wouldn’t be ignored. What I’m saying to you Gordon –“

Brewer: “What’s the rest of it then?!”

Leonard: “It’s not the only … that is not the only … well it’s about where public opinion is.”

Brewer: “What, you mean opinion polls?”

Leonard: “Well, it depends entirely … well I think there would need to be the demonstration of substantial support from the British people for a second independence referendum quite soon after we’ve just had one …”

Brewer: “But if that’s not winning an election what is this demonstrable support?”

Leonard never managed to give a full answer on what he would classify as a sufficient mandate.

To conclude, he explained his priority is helping his party win the future UK and Scottish elections. 

"I’m not going to stand here and concede somehow those parties that are in favour of a second independence referendum are somehow going to come on top," he said. "Because my job is to make sure it’s the Labour Party that comes out on top."

A recent poll by The Times showed the next Holyrood election will deliver an increased pro-independence majority, while Labour's share of seats will drop from 23 to 12. 

READ MORE: 2021 set to deliver massive pro-indy majority, Times poll shows

Leonard's performance was mocked online as independence supporters hit out at his unclear standards for a mandate.

SNP councillor Graham Campbell tweeted: "Richard Leonard just exposed himself on Politics Scotland as a total anti democrat. Never mind the fantasism of a leader who pushed ScotLab down to 9% in the EU vote in May, saying he’s gonna win the next Holyrood vote, he won’t respect Scottish voters Indy majority in 2021.

"Even if SNP & Greens win on a manifesto pledge to hold a vote, Leonard won’t accept that as a mandate for IndyRef. He thinks it should be ‘other tests of public opinion’! What about a Sect 30 for an IndyRef? Corbyn & McDonnell know they need SNP MPs votes to form a UKLab Govt"

Meanwhile, retired media professor John Robertson described the encounter between Leonard and Brewer as a "car crash". 

He said: "Richard Leonard had a real car crash interview this morning trying to explain how a winning vote for parties with a demand for Indyref2 explicitly in their manifesto would not be a mandate for one. Gordon Brewer off to take a painkiller."

It is unclear what "evidence" Leonard was referring to in his claim that indyref2 is not desired by the Scottish public. 

As well as finding 52% support for a Yes vote once "don't knows" are excluded, a recent Lord Ashcroft poll revealed that 47% of Scots believe there should be a referendum on independence at some point in the next two years.

By contrast, the study showed only 45% felt there should not be another referendum in that timeframe.