A “de facto” referendum held in the form of a general election could be the only way to stage a vote on independencePatrick Harvie has said.

The Scottish Greens co-leader warned Westminster’s refusal to recognise Holyrood’s democratic mandate means the “Plan B” option could be the Yes movement’s only option if the Supreme Court does not give legal backing to plans to hold a referendum next October.

The Green minister explained while he would prefer for a referendum to be held, if this is blocked the next general election could be the “only ability we have then to put the question to the public”. He said a majority of votes for pro-Yes parties would be required to secure a mandate for independence.

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson steadfast in his opposition to allowing a second independence referendum to take place, the UK Supreme Court has been asked to consider if the Scottish Government can stage its own consultative ballot.

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If this is ruled as being outside of Holyrood’s powers, Nicola Sturgeon has said she will make the next Westminster election a “de facto referendum” on independence.

Harvie told the Sunday Show on BBC Scotland that “very clearly” a referendum was “the preferred route”.

But he added that as the UK Government “won’t respect” the mandate for comes from the pro-independence majority at Holyrood, if the Supreme Court ruled against a referendum “we are going to have to use the following election”.

Greens co-leader and Government minister Patrick Harvie has condemned Westminster's refusal to recognise Scotland's democratic mandate

Harvie said: “I think it is preferable Scotland’s democratic mandate is respected. If repeated pro-independence majorities in both parliaments isn’t enough for a mandate what on earth is? What is the democratic legitimacy they finally would respect?”

With Westminster continuing to refuse a referendum, he added: “We will go to court and we will seek permission to take that referendum forward. And, if the answer is no, clearly we are going to have to use the following election, that is the only ability we have then to put the question to the public.”

In that election he said that Greens would “offer a distinct vision of what kind of independent Scotland we want and we would be very clear about that, just as we would in a referendum”.

Harvie continued: “We would be setting out very clearly a Green vision for an independent Scotland, a specifically Green vision for an independent Scotland, and we would be accepting the premise that a majority of votes for pro-independence parties and candidates needs to be respected as a mandate.”

Sarah Boyack, Scottish Labour’s constitution spokesperson, however, insisted that Harvie’s comments showed that “the Scottish Green Party is more than happy to drop their environmental priorities to focus solely on independence”.

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She stated: “Faced with a climate crisis, the Scottish Green Party is deciding to put flags before the future of our planet.

“This is a betrayal of the thousands of environmentalists who oppose the break-up of the UK.”

Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said it was “astonishing to hear the leader of a Green party say they would go into a general election fixated on primarily on one issue”.

Cole-Hamilton told BBC Scotland: “If they are not going to campaign on the climate emergency, Scottish Liberal Democrats will.”

The LibDem MSP described the Greens’ plans to focus on independence in the next Westminster election as a “dog’s breakfast of a strategy “, saying this it is “not going to give any clarity”.