THE SNP have insisted that a second independence referendum should still be held before the end of 2020 – despite claims from one of the party’s MPs that the chance of indyref2 this year is “likely nil”.

Former Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, who was elected as the MP for East Lothian last month, made the remarks in a column in the Scottish Left Review.

He wrote: “The likelihood of a referendum in the short-term is slim.

“Indeed, more likely nil. That additional time is no bad thing given the failure to have resolved some critical issues from 2014 or to have restored the campaigning machine that was so effective back then.”

READ MORE: Kenny MacAskill: Indyref2 only way to escape Boris Johnson's rule

Last month the First Minister wrote to Boris Johnson, making the case for Scotland to have a referendum, requesting the Section 30 order that would make any vote watertight.

Tory Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has said the Prime Minister will give “careful consideration” to Nicola Sturgeon’s argument.

However during the election campaign, Johnson said he would return the request unopened.

The National:

In his piece, MacAskill (above, back row, far-right) also urged those on the left of politics to unite against the policies of the Tory Government with its comfortable Commons majority.

He said: “We face an attack upon the social infrastructure of our country.

“The welfare state and even the NHS are in Johnson’s sights, whatever pledges he has made.

“Far from rolling back the gig economy, it’s likely to morph into something larger.”

He added: “Bringing Scottish elected politicians and parties together is essential.

“Whether that’s a constitutional convention as before, a convocation of elected parliamentarians from both chambers or a wider gathering can be discussed and agreed.

“Whoever calls it and whoever attends, it must be held soon. Building on the anger that currently exists rather than allowing despondency to settle in is required.

“It must address the high-level constitutional challenge and seek to create unity either behind independence or just the Scottish people’s right to choose their own future.

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“It can be the basis to show the world that it’s not one party but the people who are demanding it.”

In the same issue of the magazine, the former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars said Sturgeon was misleading supporters.

He wrote: “Everyone with any political nous knows that Nicola’s demand for indyref2 in 2020 is play acting to up the grudge feeling when Johnson says no.

“How the activist gallery to which she is playing don’t see they are being led up the garden path beats me.”

He also accused Sturgeon of undermining her claim to have a mandate for new vote.

“Nicola Sturgeon never went for an unambiguous vote for independence, using the softest language on indyref2 with a formula that it was right for Scots to make a decision about our future. Something difficult for any reasonable person to disagree.

“Then, she changed tack, and made the last lap all about stopping Boris and Brexit. So another election goes by and the SNP sought ‘Remainer’ Unionist votes, thus undermining the claim to have a mandate for indyref2.”

The remarks from MacAskill and Sillars were welcomed by Scotland in Union.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the group, said: “Even senior SNP figures admit there won’t be a divisive second referendum this year. “

A spokesperson for the SNP said: “In line with repeated election mandates received from the people of Scotland, a referendum should be held before the end of 2020 with the precise timing a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

“Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands – not those of Boris Johnson.”

Tens of thousands of independence supporters will take to the streets of Glasgow next week for an emergency All Under One Banner march.