FORMER Scottish Labour leader Henry McLeish has urged his old party to accept that a second independence referendum is coming.

Writing in today’s National, the ex-MSP said opposing indyref2 is “opposing democracy”.

He added: “And for Labour that is not a vision, it’s not a strategy, it’s not a policy.

“It’s an acceptance of defeatism, because the only reason they might not want to have a referendum along with the Conservatives is that they might lose.”

Describing the SNP as a “competent government, and in many respects a good government,” he claims that people voted for them “for a variety of reasons” last Thursday and warns Nicola Sturgeon’s party against taking all of those votes as votes for independence.

The former First Minister says he believes the 2021 elections will be “pivotal” and says Labour has until then to come up with an alternative to independence.

“I don’t believe for a minute that Scotland couldn’t be independent. Of course it could.

READ MORE: Henry McLeish: Scottish Labour must be less negative about indyref2

“But the question really is, do we take a substantial number of Scottish people with the country as it moves, or is there an alternative to independence which is not being properly developed.”

He says the SNP “are the only party in Scotland, that has a policy on the Constitution”.

McLeish adds: “Labour can only get back into Scottish politics if it uses the key or the constitutional question to unlock that political door.

“We’re currently nowhere on the Scottish question. I have heard one person suggest that it’s nothing to do with Labour, and that we should leave it to the Tories and the SNP. That doesn’t make sense, it’s also quite dangerous.”

He urges his party to “explore further the powers of the Scottish Parliament” and “test the boundaries of all the reserved issues".

Scottish Labour MSPs will not back the Referendums Bill when it comes to Holyrood for a final vote today.

It is understood the party believes having an independence referendum next year while it is still unclear what the new trading relationship between the UK and the EU would be the wrong thing to do.

The Referendums (Scotland) Bill was introduced to Holyrood earlier this year, setting out a framework for any referendums to be held in Scotland, and could pave the way for a new ballot on independence.

The legislation will likely pass with the support of the SNP and Greens. The Conservatives and LibDems have previously said they will oppose the legislation.

READ MORE: Henry McLeish: Ditch first-past-the-post MSPs at Holyrood

In the days since Labour’s disastrous election result, leading figures in the party have publicly questioned the party’s opposition to a second independence referendum.

Monica Lennon, the party’s health spokesperson, said over the weekend the “future of Scotland must be decided by the Scottish people”.

Labour councillor Alison Evison, the president of local authority group Cosla, on Saturday has also given her support to a second independence referendum.

Earlier this week, party leader Richard Leonard announced Scottish Labour would undertake a swift review into its election rout that will include developing a “clear, constitutional offer” to the nation.

He said: “In the coming weeks we will be conducting a swift evidence-based review of the election campaign and result, in order to chart our way forward.

“We will lead a public engagement campaign to establish why voters who are clearly still desperate for change no longer feel that Scottish Labour is the vehicle for the realisation of that change.”