SENIOR Tory ministers believe Boris Johnson should push Scotland into a second independence referendum while the pandemic still rages in order to secure a victory for No, according to reports.

The news comes after a new Panelbase poll revealed that 55% of Scots believe a “supermajority” of two-thirds (86 seats) in the Holyrood chamber would be enough for Yes-supporting parties to justify a second referendum.

When asked if a simple SNP majority (of 65 or more seats) would represent a mandate, Scotland is evenly split, with 50% of people saying it would and 50% saying it would not. This even split remains (44% vs 44%) when undecided voters are included.

The same Panelbase poll also found that 36% of Scots would back a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) should pro-independence parties return a “supermajority”. A total of 46% were opposed to a UDI in this situation.

READ MORE: I understand impatience, but indyref2 is too important to be hurried

Reported in The Sunday Times, the poll suggests that 54% of Scots believe indyref2 should come in the next 5 years.

That view is apparently shared by senior Tories in Downing Street, with one telling that paper the best time for a vote would be during the “chaos” brought on by the pandemic.

They reportedly believe that the economic turmoil and job losses surrounding Covid-19 would emphasise any difficulties that may be involved in the independence process.

One senior minister said: “I don’t see how we keep saying no forever. The time to do it would be in the middle of economic chaos, not when it’s all looking rosy.”

Discussions are also reportedly ongoing at Whitehall around a potential change to the Scotland Act in order to make it “totally unambiguous” that Holyrood does not have the power to legislate for a referendum.

Top Tories are concerned that Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP may force a Supreme Court battle between the two governments on the issue.

The National:

The Sunday Times reports an “influential Conservative” as saying: “No 10 thinks they would win a Supreme Court case, but one idea being looked at is whether to amend the Scotland Act to make it totally unambiguous.”

However, another senior Tory told the paper: “Boris has said a lot about honouring democratic votes after the EU referendum. If people vote for a referendum in Scotland, ultimately they’ll have to have one.”

There are also reported calls to try and use the EU as leverage, with one senior Tory saying ministers should “be saying to the EU: ‘Either you make clear that you won’t be welcoming Scotland, or we will go around telling every small country in the EU that they should leave.’”

READ MORE: Peter Geoghegan: Union’s discontents catch fire in volatile Northern Ireland

An SNP source said that the “game is up” and it is clear that, should Scotland vote for a referendum, there will have to be one.

The source said: “Boris Johnson knows there is going to be an independence referendum after the pandemic if the people of Scotland vote for one. But a simple majority is all that is ever needed for a democratic mandate to exist, and that applies to Scotland just as it does in the rest of the democratic world, rather than being held to some absurd special standard.

“Similarly, any Tory plan to try and amend the Scotland Act after people have voted for a referendum would be not so much a case of moving the goalposts as digging up the whole football pitch — and would trample all over not just the 1997 devolution referendum but also the Smith Commission, signed up to by all Unionist parties.

“It reeks of panic and exposes a Tory Westminster establishment which now knows for sure that, if people vote for a referendum, the game is up and there will have to be one.”