BORIS Johnson must agree to a second independence referendum and adopt a more positive approach towards the Scottish Government and devolution, according to a former First Minister.

Henry McLeish stepped up his attack on the Prime Minister, saying he has become as unpopular in Scotland in 12 months as Margaret Thatcher had over several years.

Writing in The National today, the former Labour First Minister said there would be a referendum within five years and Scotland would be independent within a decade unless the UK Government changed its attitude.

“Stop saying no to a second referendum. It is going to happen and certainly within five years. Unless Westminster changes its mindset, Scotland could exit the Union within a decade,” he wrote.

“Saying no is not an alternative, or a vision, or a policy. It is a denial of democracy generated by a fear of failure.”

READ MORE: Henry McLeish: Boris Johnson is waging a calculated war on Scotland

He also argued: “Boris Johnson’s populism poses a threat to the Union. Not only does he not have an alternative to independence, but he is now posing a threat to the Scotland Act 1998 and undermining 20 years of a real success story: the internal market legislation turns the clock back and rewrites the constitutional settlement.

“And in 12 months he has become as unpopular as Margaret Thatcher was in Scotland, but which took her years to achieve!”

McLeish, who helped steer the Scotland Act 1998 through Westminster, forecast more turmoil for the UK under Johnson, highlighting criticisms of his record on the pandemic, Brexit and his admiration of outgoing US President Donald Trump.

“Johnson plays to those who find their current lives in contemporary Britain uncertain and under threat, who look ahead with some fear as to their country’s future direction, and instead look back to a real or imagined past, which of course can be tuned into and nurtured with care and which has a powerful resonance for those who feel their country is slipping away from them.

“Making England Great Again (MEGA) may not sit comfortably with a more assertive and ambitious Scotland losing its sense of Britishness.

“The PM’s electoral “base”, founded on the ideas of English nationalism ... will be the model of governance.”

On the Prime Minister’s remarks that devolution had been a “disaster”, McLeish wrote: “Boris Johnson’s comments on devolution rightly received a maelstrom of condemnation.

“But in his first 12 months, his mishandling of the pandemic, the shambolic overseeing of our exit from the EU, his cronyism, and the painful level of incompetency of his Cabinet, where only loyalty matters, are worrying reminders of the political troubles that lie ahead.”