CHALLENGING a second referendum in the courts would be a “gift” for Nicola Sturgeon, a leading independence expert has warned Boris Johnson.

Tory chiefs have been urged to think carefully about the consequences of “a bunch of posh, mainly English lawyers blocking the will of the Scottish people” in the event that Westminster takes Holyrood to the Supreme Court.

Matt Qvortrup, professor of political science at Coventry University, is an expert on independence movements across the world.

In a column for the Times, he predicted a legal challenge against indyref2 would succeed, but warned it could come at a political cost for the Tories if they continue to act in a “colonial” manner.

He added that the Tory prime minister could be hampered by his poor international reputation and that he may rush through a referendum in a bid to prevent support for independence increasing further.

“Just as with Catalonia, the British courts will declare the Scottish referendum illegal,” Qvortup wrote. “This will be a gift for Sturgeon. Imagine, a bunch of posh, mainly English lawyers blocking the will of the Scottish people in the unelected Supreme Court in London.

“What will Sturgeon do then? She is largely perceived as the most capable and competent political leader in Britain today and highly regarded abroad. Johnson, by contrast, is not.”

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He argued the Scottish Government’s “best tactic” would be to focus on the legal case for another plebiscite.

“Let the courts block the will of the people and resentment against the ‘English’ Tories will grow,” the professor wrote. “This will lead to more support for independence and more political capital will be useful later on.

“But, paradoxically, this will suit Johnson. Angry Scots demanding separation and a robust defence of the Union will be popular in England.”

Speaking to the Times, he added: “The SNP could use the court case to smoke Boris out and he might try to neutralise the whole thing by saying he will allow a referendum within a tight timescale or some kind of special majority. Ultimately I don’t think the nationalists would win a referendum, but their chances are greatly increased if London acts in a colonial manner.”

UK Government ministers have repeatedly refused to countenance the possibility of another referendum.

The First Minister, meanwhile, has not ruled out court action to secure permission to hold a plebiscite.

According to reports, some Tory chiefs are in favour of pushing through indyref2 within the next year, believing the chances of a Yes victory would be limited while the country continues to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Responding to Qvortrup's comments about Johnson being forced into a quickfire indyref2, SNP MP Pete Wishart commented: "This is exactly the case. They know trying to block a referendum in their courts will only lead to independence becoming unstoppable."