The SNP have rejected a claim by Ruth Davidson that Nationalists must win an "outright majority" at the 2021 elections to provide a mandate for a potential second referendum on independence.
The Scottish Tory leader said Nicola Sturgeon cannot "keep re-running the vote until she gets the answer that she wants" in an interview with the BBC. "She doesn't have a mandate to hold it."
Asked what would make a mandate, Ms Davidson said: "If she gets another majority in a Holyrood election."
When pressed on whether that would be an outright majority or one made up with other pro-independence parties, she replied: "The First Minister said she would respect the first referendum. She hasn't done that. She said she would only ask for another referendum if a majority of Scots wanted it. They clearly don't. Only one in five want it on her timetable.
"If she puts it in her manifesto that she's going to hold another referendum, she wins a majority outright, then she can negotiate with the UK Government."
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But the SNP said that the Scots Tory leader had previously argued that a majority of pro-independence MSPs would justify a referendum – and argued in 2015 that the UK government should not block a new referendum.
The Nationalists added that a majority of MSPs already supported holding an independence referendum - when Green members are counted - and that party had "a clear and specific mandate from the 2016 election".
SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “Ruth Davidson’s position is now completely incoherent – she is making it up as she goes along and directly contradicting herself, putting the Tories on the wrong side of public opinion.
“If the Tories want to compare mandates then let’s go ahead. Ruth Davidson’s party got under 12 per cent of the vote last time Scotland went to the polls – yet she has the arrogance to pretend that she can lay down the law.
“A majority of MSPs support holding an independence referendum, and a clear majority of Scots believe it should be for Holyrood to decide, not Westminster.
“Ruth Davidson’s stance is fundamentally anti-democratic, and she wants to gerrymander our constitution – saying that a vote for a referendum only counts if it’s cast by a politician in an SNP rosette. That is not how parliamentary democracy works, and she knows it.
“It is also a staggeringly hypocritical position considering the Tories are only in government through a stitch-up with the DUP – and slumped to fifth place across the UK in the European election.
“It’s entirely undemocratic for any politician to try and stand in the way of Scotland determining our own future – as Ruth Davidson herself used to admit.
“Trying to block a democratic mandate is utterly indefensible, and will ultimately prove to be untenable – the bottom line is the Tories are panicking as they run scared of a referendum they fear they will lose.”