SUSPENDING work on an independence referendum because of the invasion of Ukraine would be like handing Putin “an effective veto over democracy in Scotland”, an SNP MSP said.

It comes as a poll by Savanta ComRes found that 59% of respondents felt talks on the timing of a second referendum should stop during the war, compared to 29% who believed they should continue.

Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to hold indyref2 in 2023, Covid-permitting. Holding a referendum in the first part of this parliamentary term was a key part of the SNP manifesto last year.

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Asked recently if Russia’s actions had changed her plans, Sturgeon told LBC: “My plans and my thinking hasn't changed.

“We, right now, should be reminded, above all else, how lucky we are to live in a free democracy where we can put forward our case for political constitutional change, argue that case passionately, whatever our views on that might be, and trust people to decide.”

The First Minister also said that Scottish independence would allow the country to play a bigger role in the humanitarian response.

“I support independence for a whole variety of reasons, but one of the motivations for my support for independence is to see Scotland play a bigger role, albeit as a small country, in building a more peaceful world, to be a progressive, constructive international partner, to be a progressive country that welcomes refugees,” she told listeners.

In the latest poll, carried out between March 10 and 16, support for a No vote is at 52% and support for Yes is at 48% – when the “don’t knows” are removed.

The voting intention figures represent a slight increase for No compared to the polling company’s previous research in January.

Among SNP voters, 43% said discussions on when a second independence referendum should take place should stop while 47% said they should continue.

'Vladimir Putin should not be handed an effective veto over democracy in Scotland,' one SNP MSP said

But SNP MSP Rona Mackay (above, left) argued that the situation in Europe is not incompatible with continuing democracy here in Scotland.

“Suggesting that Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine means the democratic process in the UK should be suspended would be grist to the Kremlin’s mill – Vladimir Putin should not be handed an effective veto over democracy in Scotland or anywhere else. You don’t defend democracy by suspending it.

“People have already decided there should be an independence referendum – this debate was had in last year’s Holyrood elections and the people elected a majority of MSPs with a mandate for an independence referendum in the parliamentary term – greater than that in 2011.”

The poll also found that on the timing of a second vote, 34% of Scots agree with the First Minister that it should be held within the next two years, while 15% feel it should take place within five years.

It came as Scottish Tory chief whip Stephen Kerr said Scotland could have the right to indyref2 if the SNP won an outright majority at a Holyrood election.

Speaking at the party’s conference in Aberdeen, he argued that because the SNP didn’t win a majority in 2021 – though a pro-independence majority of MSPs was elected – they didn’t secure a mandate to hold a vote on Scotland’s future.

“The SNP would need to get a majority in the Scottish Parliament as far as I am concerned,” he went on.