A SECOND independence referendum is “essential” to Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic, the SNP have said after Keir Starmer dismissed calls for another plebiscite.

The Labour leader, despite admitting the status quo “isn’t working” for Scots, insisted that now is not the time for indyref2.

He did, however, reject Boris Johnson’s claim that a second vote should be blocked until 2055.

"I don't think there should be another referendum,” Starmer told Andrew Marr. “I don't think another divisive referendum is the right way forward. But I do accept the status quo isn't working.

"But I don't accept the argument that if the status quo isn't working, then the next thing you do is go to a referendum. I think there are other things you can do, other arguments that can be made in support of a United Kingdom.”

READ MORE: Keir Starmer rejects PM's claim that indyref2 should be blocked for 45 years

In response, the SNP’s depute Westminster leader said independence was Scotland’s best hope of a strong recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

Kirsten Oswald said: “An independence referendum is essential to allow the people of Scotland to strategically decide how, as a country, we rebuild our economy and how we prioritise social policy as we emerge from the pandemic.

“Right now, the Scottish Government is prioritising a strong and green economic recovery but it is doing so with one hand tied behind its back as key fiscal powers remain reserved to Westminster.

“At the end of the day, it’s not up to Keir Starmer or any other politician to determine if there is a referendum on independence – that is a matter for the people of Scotland themselves.”

The National: SNP MP Kirsten OswaldSNP MP Kirsten Oswald

Starmer also argued that indyref2 shouldn’t be on the table because Scots’ main focus was tackling the pandemic.

But Oswald pointed to soaring support for independence in the polls, with 16 surveys in a row recording majority backing for Yes.

Polls have also suggested that around 40% of Labour voters back independence.

READ MORE: Now it's 16 in a row as yet another poll shows Yes majority

The SNP MP added: “The most recent polls show support for Scottish independence consistently sitting at over 50% – the momentum is very much with the Yes campaign. Labour's opposition to a referendum is completely unsustainable – particularly when many of its own members recognise that to stand in the way of one would be undemocratic.

“The more the Tories and Labour try to ignore Scotland’s democratic mandate to choose our own future, the more support for a fresh referendum – and for independence itself – will continue to grow.

“As the consequences of Brexit become clearer by the day in 2021, so does the fact that it is only with the full powers of independence as a country inside the EU that Scotland will be able to secure a strong economic recovery and protect its future.”

Starmer was also condemned for reaffirming his support for Brexit. The Labour leader told Marr that “there is a case for re-joining the EU”.

He also doubled down on the scrapping of freedom of movement, stating: "I don’t think there’s an argument for reopening those aspects of the treaty.”

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SNP MSP Joan McAlpine commented: “There we have it – both the Tories and Labour are signed up to a hard Brexit and seem content with having endangered Scotland’s economy and future. None of the main parties in Scotland or the UK will offer a route back to the EU for Scotland.

“Many Labour supporters across the UK will be disappointed. At least in Scotland we have another option with the SNP – which is now the only main political party fighting for Scotland’s wish to be within the EU.

"Scotland has been completely ignored by Westminster throughout this whole Brexit process. It is beyond reckless that we now face long-lasting harm to jobs, living standards and the economy – all because of the actions of two parties that Scotland did not vote for.

“Scotland has the right to determine its future. The only way to protect Scotland's interests and secure our place in Europe is to become an independent country."