Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of telling Scots a “whopper” when she told voters the general election is not about Scottish independence.
The row over the SNP’s treatment of their plans for a second independence referendum ahead of the 8 June poll escalated when Conservative leader Ruth Davidson claimed the First Minister is treating people as “fools”.
In an effort to win votes in the Westminster election, Ms Davidson said the SNP leader was trying to “face both ways” and “promise all things to all people”.
The SNP has been accused of trying to play down Ms Sturgeon’s plans for another referendum ever since the First Minister told the broadcaster STV: “’This election is not deciding whether or not Scotland is independent.’’
Ms Sturgeon’s critics have claimed she has been keen to keep her plans in the background, because she knows many voters are hostile towards them.
After Theresa May announced her snap election, it emerged that the First Minister intends to delay her announcement on how she will progress her referendum plans until after the UK has been to the polls.
The row was reignited earlier this week when her predecessor Alex Salmond appeared to give the issue more prominence.
Mr Salmond said Scots casting their ballots on 8 June “will know that they are voting to support the right of the parliament to decide on the holding of the Scottish referendum”.
Asked about the former First Minister’s remarks yesterday, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs at First Minister’s Questions the vote is “an opportunity to determine who chooses Scotland’s future” – and insisted that was “exactly the same” as Mr Salmond’s position.
Ms Davidson continued her attack by saying there were apparent differences within the SNP on issues such as fishing and Scotland’s place in Europe post-Brexit.
The Conservative leader was reacting to the fact that two SNP politicians had signed a pledge to protect fishermen by keeping Scotland outside the EU.
Elidh Whiteford and Mike Weir, who are defending Banff and Buchan and Angus respectively, backed a campaign to keep Scotland out of the Common Fisheries policy – a fundamental part of EU membership.
Ms Davidson said: “What we’ve got is that the SNP say they are in favour of joining the European Union, with the First Minister not confirming whether the SNP will back full membership in their manifesto. They say they are in favour of the Common Fisheries policy, except for MPs in fishing communities who say they are against it.
“Then we have the real whopper – in Scotland we have Nicola Sturgeon saying the coming election hasn’t anything to do whatsoever with independence, but from the broadcast studios of London up pops Alex Salmond to confirm they want to use this election to demand a referendum that the rest of us don’t want.
“So, the First Minister thinks on fishing, on EU membership and on independence she can face both ways and promise all things to all people.”
Ms Davidson added: “Isn’t it the case that she is treating the electorate as fools?”
Ms Sturgeon responded: “This election is an opportunity to determine who chooses Scotland’s future, is it a Tory government at Westminster or is it this democratically-elected Scottish Parliament, exactly the same as Alex Salmond’s comments yesterday afternoon.”
She went on to accuse the Tories of being “all at sea” and “drowning” on the issue of fishing.