RUTH Davidson refused yesterday to explain to the Sunday National why she attacked Labour’s John McDonnell over his stance on a second independence referendum despite previously supporting a similar position.

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives last week tweeted that she “felt” for Labour voters who “stood against the forces of nationalism in 2014”.

She added: “Know that the Scottish Tories will always stand up for our United Kingdom.”

Her comments came in response to McDonnell’s remarks that it would be up to the Scottish people to decide whether indyref2 should go ahead and that a future Labout government at Westminster would not try to block it.

But just three years ago, Davidson also said the UK Government should not block it from happening.

Yesterday the SNP said it showed the Tories were “clearly running scared of democracy”.

In an interview at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last week McDonnell said: “It will be for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people to decide that.

“We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide. That’s democracy.”

However, despite Davidson leaping on the comments, in 2016 she said she did not believe a re-run of the referendum should be completely denied.

Asked whether the UK Government – which approved the 2014 independence referendum’s Section 30 order – should allow a future independence vote, Davidson told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme: “I would argue as strong as I could that we should stay part of our biggest market and closest friend. Constitutionally the UK Government shouldn’t block it, no.”

However, in April this year she backtracked on that stance when asked if indyref2 should go ahead.

She said: “I’ll say no, and this prime minister and the next prime minister should say no too.”

SNP MSP George Adam said: “Ruth Davidson has been utterly shown up by her colleagues in Westminster and the rest of her party, who seem determined to treat Scotland as an afterthought.

“The Tories are clearly running scared of democracy.

“It’s no wonder that people are turning towards independence.”

Davidson’s tweet prompted more than 1000 responses, including many pointing out her past comments on the issue.

One said: “Wow you really do flip flop more than an Olympic gymnast, didn’t you already say that Scotland shouldn’t be prevented from having another indyref not too long ago?”

Another tweet said: “You said if the SNP had a majority in 2021 then they were entitled to call for indyref2! He’s saying the same thing! More Ruth flip flopping!”

The Scottish Conservatives declined to comment on the issue last night.

Davidson has faced challenges with the arrival of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

The Scottish Conservative leader was also reportedly left “livid” after her trusted ally David Mundell was sacked as Scottish Secretary after Johnson became Prime Minister.

Last week she widened the rift by warning millions of struggling families cannot afford the economic shock of a No-Deal Brexit, as Downing Street ramped up plans for crashing out of the EU.

Davidson, who has said she will not support a No Deal, said the Prime Minister had to give ground as well as the EU.

She said: “My own view is that, particularly after the issues we had in 2008 with the worldwide economic crash, there’s quite a lot of people that would really struggle, even if there was a very mild economic shock to the United Kingdom, even if it was only a short-term one.

“There are millions of people in this country who have no savings, whose wages haven’t kept up and overtaken inflation in the last 10 years, who live two or three weeks out of every month in their overdraft as it is, and can’t afford an economic shock to this country.

Her conflicting statements on indyref2 are just one indication that Conservatives in Scotland are unclear on the issue.

Last week Mundell also spoke about the issue of a second referendum – but he said it would be “hard to push back” against it if parties specifically campaigning for Scottish independence win a majority at the 2021 Holyrood election.

Speaking at an Edinburgh Fringe event in North Berwick, he said: “If the 2021 Scottish Parliament election is fought explicitly on the issue of another referendum, and then there is a majority of nationalist parties, then evidently you do have to listen to that.

“The 2016 Scottish Parliament election wasn’t fought on that basis, it was sort of a subset of the SNP manifesto and my view is the wording they put there was deliberately ambiguous so as to allow them to not major on independence but then claim they had a mandate for independence.”

He added: “If the 2021 Scottish Parliament election is fought on an explicit independence referendum basis then it is harder to push back against the idea that there isn’t a mandate for that.”