IT’s the signal Yessers have been waiting for – Indyref2 is coming and it will come next year, according to the SNP’s leader at Westminster, the most senior figure to confirm when it will happen.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday National against a background of growing discontent over indy inaction when opinion polls consistently show rising support for it, Ian Blackford gave a commitment that Scots will have their say next year.

The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said he understood people’s frustration over recent months as they recoiled at Scotland’s treatment at the hands of Boris Johnson’s Tory government, but now was the time for the Yes movement to come together, respect each other and listen to each others’ points of view.

“This is the time for us to show leadership to unite the people of Scotland,” said Blackford.

“We can find a way out of Boris’s Brexit Britain to Scotland reclaiming its independence as a country within the European Union, a country that will be respectful to the law, one where we’re seeking to build a fairer country, but one where we also recognise our responsibilities.

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"And the way to do that is to continue to convince those seeing the settled will of the Scottish people with independence to come towards us.

“And that is by continuing on the road that we’re on, building support in the first instance for the SNP for the elections next year; determining that the people of Scotland deserve the right to be able to call their own future.

“And that right to call a referendum must sit with the people of Scotland and not with Boris Johnson in London.”

Blackford said we could not have a situation where Johnson denied democracy, putting himself in a situation like his friend Donald Trump and his denial of Joe Biden’s victory.

“The juxtaposition of that and the fact that [Scottish Secretary] Alister Jack arrogantly tries to tell us that we should all be dead before the people of Scotland have the right to decide their own future again is something that people in Scotland will simply not accept.

“But we have in the first instance to make sure that we come together, now that we have the SNP parliamentary candidates in place, let’s make sure that we’re having a conversation with the people of Scotland about our right to choose.”

He said there was neither sense nor logic in Johnson continuing to deny democracy.

A bill would be presented to the Scottish Parliament setting out the approach and referendum question and he was convinced the strategy would deliver.

“We know that the Unionist government in London will sink to enormous depths to frustrate us … We need to demonstrably show that the people of Scotland are determined that they will have their say and in the first case, we have to win this election for the people of Scotland.

“To be able to be respectful to those who are not currently with us that we’re appealing to join us; about that denial of democracy that is currently taking place and to affirm that it is the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future; and come what may, we will prevail.

“That referendum will take place and we need to plan that that referendum must take place in 2021.”

Blackford also addressed concerns that the SNP had not acted on previous electoral mandates for a referendum, saying he was aware when he said in the Commons “we will not put up with this”, that some people responded on social media with: “How often are you going to say that?”

He said: “It’s not about us, it’s about those that we’re bringing across towards us and demonstrating the way we are being treated, demonstrating what the Covid crisis is showing, and indeed, Brexit has shown.

"That although our parliament has done a tremendous job protecting the people of Scotland from the worst vestiges of what Boris Johnson is trying to do to us that we cannot protect ourselves from Covid, we don’t have the economic powers to support those that have been left behind.”

Blackford said the SNP had gone to the electorate last December on the premise of Scotland’s right to choose, and increased SNP seats from 35 to 48 seats on that basis.

Their intended strategy was to emphasis to Westminster that the promise had to be delivered upon, however, he added: “Covid has come along and the Scottish Government in particular, has had to take its responsibilities of stewarding the country through this crisis.

“So we’ve had to, from a tactical point of view, put off holding a referendum in 2020 and I apologise that that was the case.

“But I believe that was the right thing to do because we had to accept our responsibilities ... of making sure we were protecting people from this crisis, that we were protecting the NHS and were doing all that we could to save lives.”

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"Once we come out of the pandemic crisis and secure a victory at Holyrood," he said, "we would have the platform for a referendum and to have it quickly."

Blackford said SNP MPs were in Westminster to ensure they were the last group of SNP members in the London parliament and had become a thorn in the side of the UK Government. He added: “I look forward immensely to the day that we leave that place and we leave that place because our job is done, because Scotland has become an independent country.

“That day, when we settle up for Scotland, is one that I’m absolutely determined that we deliver upon and we deliver upon as quickly as is possible.

“I’ve actually never been as optimistic as I am today ... and you know my personal burning desire to see this country becoming independent ... I don’t believe that the Unionist side have arguments against us that can stack up in front of the people of Scotland. But we need to demonstrate that there’s a breadth and a depth and a diversity to the independence movement.

“And we must remain focussed on working together to secure the prize.”