SCOTS could be asked to vote on independence in the Autumn of 2018, Alex Salmond has claimed.

And the Former First Minister says he believes Nicola Sturgeon could make an announcement about the second referendum in the next few weeks.

His comments come amid reports pro-Unionist politicians are worried there many not be a Better Together 2, with little contact between Labour, the Tories and the LibDems, and no discussion on what a No campaign might look like and who it might involve.

“To use a Valentines Day metaphor, no card has been sent; there’s no date for an assignation, never mind any hand-holding or kissing,” one Labour source told The Sunday Times.

There may be a chance for Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson to rectify that tonight as both are in London making speeches on the constitution. Though the two leaders are at separate events.

Salmond told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme that a second independence referendum would come if Theresa May rejected the Scottish Government’s proposals to allow Scotland to remain in the single market, even after the rest of the UK leaves.

If the Prime Minister ignored those plans, continued Salmond, then people know the Tories were “not interested in the voice of Scotland”.

He said: “The UK Government has still to respond to Nicola Sturgeon’s compromise proposal.

“That’s going to come over the next few weeks and once that’s done – if they reject it as many people predict – then we’ll know that they’re not interested in the voice of Scotland.

“As Nicola Sturgeon has said it is then very likely there will be another independence referendum.”

The Gordon MP said he thought the degree of progress being made in Brexit talks would be clear before a vote on Scottish independence.

He said: “If there is another independence referendum then the timescale I would have said would be the autumn of next year.

“If you’re talking about a referendum in about 18 months time, by then the negotiations will be crystallised.”

Reports earlier in the week suggested that both Tory and SNP staffers, and civil servants in London and Edinburgh, are gearing up for a second independence referendum. The Courier newspaper suggested Sturgeon might make an announcement during the SNP conference on March 17 and 18. Though SNP sources have said they’re worried an announcement then could affect campaigning for May’s council elections.

Salmond also said the economic battleground for any future referendum would be on trade rather than currency. He said that the difference between the sides would be over “trade and access to markets, because that is what the UK Government is jeopardising and that is what an independent Scotland could secure.”

He added: “The key argument I see coming in this referendum, if that’s what happens, in terms of economics is going to be what secures Scotland’s trade, our access to markets.

“I think independence has a winning argument on that framework and I expect to see it expertly deployed by Nicola Sturgeon.”

In her speech tonight, Scottish Conservatives leader Davidson will say another vote on independence would only “distract” the First Minister from her aim of closing the attainment gap in Scotland’s schools.

Davidson will accuse SNP ministers of being “asleep at the wheel on education” and that “constitutional division has taken precedence over education reform”.

“Simply put, I do not think the majority of people in Scotland will tolerate the SNP setting all things aside over the coming two years to re-fight a campaign on independence,” she is expected to say.

Meanwhile, at her event Dugdale will make a speech proposing a “more federal UK”, and is expected to announce a motion to adopt federalism at the party’s conference next week.

Speaking ahead of the event at University College London, Dugdale said: “There should be a People’s Constitutional Convention, made up of citizens from across the United Kingdom, which should report before the next UK General Election. I believe we need a new Act of Union to save our Union for generations to come.”

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said Dugdale’s talk of federalism was nothing new from Labour: “This is just the latest version of the same old song.

“Billions of years from now I half expect Labour politicians to be staring into the dying sun calling for a constitutional convention.”