The UK government is “scared” of allowing a Scottish independence referendum because it knows it will lose, the SNP’s deputy leader has said.
Keith Brown made the claim after the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a vote could not be held without consent from Westminster.
Nicola Sturgeon has said the SNP will now use the next general election as a de facto independence referendum.
The Conservatives and Labour have rejected that idea.
They argue that general elections are fought on a range of issues and not just the constitution.
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Scottish Conservative Party chairman Craig Hoy has also accused Ms Sturgeon of “behaving more like an ultra-nationalist than the first minister” by describing the independence cause as a fight for democracy.
Speaking to BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, Keith Brown said the Yes movement would hit “new heights” following the Supreme Court ruling.
Mr Brown said: “I think they know they’re going to lose this, that’s why they are doing everything they can to twist democracy, to refuse the opportunity for the people of Scotland, because they know they’re going to lose.”
He also talked down dissolving Holyrood and using the subsequent election as a de facto referendum, which had been suggested by SNP MP Angus MacNeil.
To force a Holyrood election, two-thirds of MSPs would have to vote in favour or the post of first minister would have to be vacant for 28 days.
Mr Brown added: “We do want to have a referendum next year, and we could do that still if the UK government just agreed to the proper route they’ve agreed in the past.
“That’s the reasonable way to do it, that’s the democratic way to do it.”
First Minister Ms Sturgeon has said she is willing to speak to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the possibility of a Section 30 order which would grant Holyrood the necessary powers to stage a vote.
The SNP won 45% of the votes in Scotland at the last general election in 2019 while winning 48 of the 59 seats.
Recent opinion polls have suggested that the country is essentially split down the middle on the independence question, but with a very narrow majority in favour of staying in the UK.
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