A SECOND independence referendum this year is “eminently winnable”, a senior SNP MP has said.

Pete Wishart said a new ballot on the future of Scotland was on the point of being secured – and the only thing left was to “get out there and ensure it is won well”.

His comments come after former Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, who was elected as MP for East Lothian, said the likelihood of a second referendum in the short-term is “slim” and “more likely, nil”.

But Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire, said: “The First Minister said it is going to happen this year and that is what we are working towards.

“Our job now is to build the majority to ensure it will be successful and the more we can demonstrate sustained majority support for independence, the more it puts pressure on Boris Johnson and the Westminster Government to respect Scottish democracy.

“I am fully behind what the First Minister has proposed and suggested – she said we are going to have a referendum this year and I am working towards securing that and winning that.”

MacAskill (below) also said any extra time before such a vote is “no bad thing” in the comments he made in the Scottish Left Review, which were reported last week.

The National: Kenny MacAskill won his East Lothian seat in the 2019 General ElectionKenny MacAskill won his East Lothian seat in the 2019 General Election

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Wishart, who declined to comment directly on the remarks, said support for independence was at an “all-time, record high”.

He added: “The strategy we have adopted is the one that seems to be achieving the success that is required.

“What I never understand is why I have seen so many people on Twitter trying to suggest we do something different – why on earth would we want to do something different when the approach we have adopted seems to have such success?

“We are at the point of securing independence – the First Minister set a timetable for a referendum this year, this is now eminently winnable and the only thing that we have got to do is get out there, secure that support and ensure it is won well.”

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The Scottish Greens have backed a referendum happening this year.

MSP Alison Johnstone said: “Scotland is about to be dragged from the EU against our will.

“It’s only right that the people, who lets not forget have already given the Scottish Parliament a mandate to hold a referendum, are given a say over Scotland’s future before the transition period closes at the end of the year.”

However with the Prime Minister stating his opposition to indyref2, Holyrood gaining the powers to hold another ballot remains the major stumbling block.

Last month Sturgeon wrote to Boris Johnson making the case for the referendum to be held and requesting a section 30 order to make any vote watertight.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack later said the Prime Minister will give “careful consideration” to the request.

Anthony Salamone, managing director of Edinburgh-based political consultancy European Merchants, said the steps for a referendum to happen would also have to include a new Edinburgh Agreement and the setting up of Yes and No campaigns – as well as time for debating the issues. Salamone said: “You have 12 months, but I imagine you wouldn’t want to hold a referendum in December, maybe not November, so can you really do all that in nine months? I don’t necessarily think so.

“So I do find that quite unrealistic, even if the UK Government says yes and they won’t, they won’t say yes initially. I think on that order the timescale is very challenging.”

But he added: “On the other hand if the UK Government did say in the next few months, if they said yes after 2021 and that meant the referendum was in 2021/22, would the SNP really say no to that? I imagine they wouldn’t.

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“So I think when it comes down to it, if the UK Government does by some measure agree to a referendum, I am sure the SNP will be flexible on this timetable.”

Salamone said the preparations for the No side could be more challenging this time, with Scottish Labour in crisis over its position on a referendum.

Senior figures within the party have called for it to rethink its opposition to indyref2 in the wake of the SNP’s General Election victory.

Last week Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) general secretary Grahame Smith called on the Labour movement in Scotland to back another referendum.

Salamone said: “You can’t necessarily recreate Better Together – at least I don’t imagine that – not least because of the issue of what will the position of Scottish Labour actually be in the referendum?

“They may not actively campaign for independence, but I think it is certainly possible the Scottish party could at least be neutral, given the existential crisis that Scottish Labour is facing.”

He added: “In terms of timing, you could say sure the debate has carried on since 2014 and many people know whether they are Yes or No already. But so much has changed since 2014 there needs to be enough time for a proper debate.”