"TERRIFIED” Tories have shown “total contempt for democracy” by demanding the scrapping of proposed legislation for a second referendum, Constitution Secretary Michael Russell has said.

Fourteen polls in a row have now put Yes ahead of No, with the latest showing almost two thirds of people want indyref2 within the next parliamentary term.

But yesterday Douglas Ross’ party called on SNP ministers to bin any draft bill for indyref2.

That came after Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, told the Sunday National that the ballot will come in 2021.

In the interview, Blackford said a bill would be presented to the Scottish Parliament setting out the approach and referendum question – and he was convinced the strategy would deliver a Yes result.

Yesterday the Scottish Conservatives called on the Scottish Government to “disown” Blackford’s comments and scrap plans to put the matter before parliament.

Dean Lockhart, the party’s shadow constitution spokesman, said: “We’re in the middle of the second wave of this pandemic but SNP leaders and government ministers are ramping up their push for a 2021 independence referendum.

“With one eye on the upcoming SNP conference, the nationalists true colours are coming out.

“We need to hear the SNP Government fully disown Ian Blackford’s comments and withdraw their Referendum Bill. Words alone are not enough – if they are genuinely not contemplating a reckless referendum next year, they should withdraw the bill.

“The threat of another divisive referendum is the last thing anyone needs or wants right now when the whole country is fighting Covid-19 and jobs are on the line.”

In his interview, Blackford set out how a push on constitutional change had been paused as a result of the pandemic, saying: “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.

READ MORE: Indyref2: Poll shows two-thirds of Scots want another vote

“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.”

Issuing their demand, the Scottish Tories highlighted pro-independence statements from a number of high-profile government figures, including ministers Paul Wheelhouse, Fiona Hyslop, Fergus Ewing and Keith Brown, who described the forthcoming Scottish Parliament contest as an “independence election”.

They also pointed to comments from Russell which said a fresh ballot “could take place, I’m quite sure, before the end of next year”.

Responding to the anti-referendum demand, Russell – who will step down from frontline politics at the national elections in May – suggested the Conservative and Unionist Party was rattled.

A spokesperson for the cabinet secretary said: “With polls consistently showing that independence is becoming the settled will of the Scottish people, it’s no wonder the Tories are so terrified at the prospect of an independence referendum.

“The aim of Boris Johnson’s Scottish branch is to deny the people of Scotland the right to choose their own future and escape the disastrous hard Brexit Westminster is desperate to impose, with all the damage to jobs and the economy that will cause.

“The Tories have total contempt for Scottish democracy but the people of Scotland have the right to choose a better future – and we are determined to protect that right.”

The comments came after Nicola Sturgeon declined to go into detail at the matter at her regular coronavirus press conference.

Under questioning, she said: “I think my views on independence are well known. This is not the forum for me to go into them in detail.

“When we get to the point where we’re sending out plans and a manifesto for the election, I will set out my thoughts on the timing of that. I’ve made that clear but I’m not getting any further into that today.”

Responding to a further question, she stated: “I don’t think it should come as any surprise to anybody that people in the SNP want to think there will be an independence referendum sooner rather than later. That is probably the view of all of us but I’ll set out as First Minister, as leader of the SNP, in our manifesto what the timing of that is.”