THE leader of the UK Liberal Democrats has doubled down on his party’s anti-independence referendum stance, despite falling behind the SNP in a UK-wide poll.

The SNP said this showed the “astonishing hypocrisy” of the "self-styled liberal democrats", adding that the party was “terrified of the people of Scotland having their say”.

Speaking to Andrew Marr today, LibDem leader Ed Davey was asked: “If the SNP win a majority in the next Holyrood elections on their manifesto, do they then have a mandate for an independence referendum next year?”

Davey replied: "Liberal Democrats do not want the separation of Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom.

“We believe the family of nations should stick together and Liberal Democrats will be standing at the Holyrood elections in May to oppose a referendum.”

When Marr pressed on the issue, Davey added: “Liberal Democrat MSPs will have stood on a mandate to oppose that second referendum, won’t they, so we will vote against that.”

READ MORE: The SNP outpolled the LibDems across the UK - but does it matter?​

However, the LibDems have by Davey’s own admission had three “very poor, very disappointing” general election results in just five years, and a new poll suggests their fortunes are not about to change.

Commissioned by The Observer and conducted by Opinium, the UK-wide poll released today had the LibDems winning just 5% of the votes.

This is especially poor when compared to the SNP. Despite only running in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s party polled at 6% of the UK vote.

Labour overtook the Tories for the first time since the General Election, polling at 42% compared to the Conservatives’ 39.

For the poll, Opinium interviewed 2002 UK adults from September 23 to 25, 2020.

The LibDems are having a virtual conference this weekend at which the main topic of debate has been how to turn around their ailing fortunes.

Already, the party has said it was “distracted” by Brexit and has accepted that the EU debate is over for the “next few years”.

They will instead be aiming to “serve the community” and not focus on “particular interests”.

This echoes comments Davey made while on a “listening tour” of Scotland earlier this month.

The LibDem leader suggested Scottish independence was a “disruption” or “distraction” that did not currently interest people focused on the “things that matter”.

READ MORE: Shona Craven: I’m confused – could the real Ed Davey please stand up?

The SNP’s deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald told The National that Scottish independence was not an issue for Davey and his UK LibDems to decide.

Oswald, who succeeded Kirsty Blackman in the deputy role this July, said: “The hypocrisy of the self-styled liberal democrats is astonishing. They were quick to demand a second vote on the Brexit result, saying the people had the right to change their minds.

“With polls consistently suggesting that independence is the majority position in Scotland, no wonder the Lib Dems are terrified of the people of Scotland having their say.

"Ultimately, it’s not for Ed Davey or any other politician to tell the people of Scotland whether or not they can have a referendum on independence - that decision should always be for the people of Scotland."