Indyref2 could take place next autumn, says Alex Salmond

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Alex Salmond has said a second independence referendum could take place next autumn

Nicola Sturgeon would push for a second independence referendum next autumn if the UK Government rejects her bespoke Scottish Brexit plan, Alex Salmond has predicted.

The former first minister appeared to confirm the broad timescale within which the SNP would want to take the country back to the polls, as anticipated by Downing Street and revealed by The Courier last week.

Within hours of the UK’s decision to leave the EU being declared, Ms Sturgeon, his successor, warned another ballot was “highly likely” given a majority of Scots voted to remain.

The SNP put forward proposals last year aimed at keeping Scotland as a member of both the European single market and the UK but Theresa May has made clear her intention to leave the trading bloc while her ministers have said a Scottish solution is unlikely.

Mr Salmond said if the Prime Minister rejected the Scottish Government solution “then we will know that they (the UK Government) are not interested in the voice of Scotland and as Nicola Sturgeon has said it is very likely there will be another independence referendum”.

The likely timing for such a ballot “would be the autumn of next year”, he added. The Courier has learned Ms Sturgeon has told her civil servants to be ready for her to request a section 30 order, which she requires the UK Government to approve to legally hold another plebiscite.

In an interview with the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Mr Salmond said Scotland’s trade links with the European Union would be the main battleground in another contest.

He claimed the currency used by an independent country would not be as important to voters, despite a poll emerging on Sunday which showed keeping the pound remains the preference for more than two-thirds of Scots.

The SNP MP said: “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.”

Labour business manager James Kelly said: “It’s a case of Alex in wonderland if the SNP think they can try and convince Scots that the pound in their pocket doesn’t matter.

“Alex Salmond’s approach on currency is to ignore and hope nobody notices. It won’t wash.”