The SNP has attacked Conservative leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt's record as health secretary and claimed he poses "just as big a risk" to Scotland as Boris Johnson.
Keith Brown, the Nationalists’ depute leader, said that the challenger for the top Tory job had brought the NHS in England and Wales "to its knees" before he stepped down in 2018.
The comments are the latest in a growing row between the party and the foreign secretary following a decision by his department to withdraw UK Government diplomatic support for the First Minister on trips abroad.
Mr Hunt has said this would apply when Nicola Sturgeon is using trips to promote independence - a decision today slammed by the First Minister's spokesman as "extraordinary".
Responding to the comments from Mr Brown, Mr Hunt's campaign dismissed the attack as proof of how worried the SNP was of a challenge from the Scottish Conservatives.
The SNP depute leader, in a strongly worded attack, claimed the foreign secretary "poses just as big a risk to our economy and the future of Scotland’s NHS" if he made 10 Downing Street instead of Boris Johnson.
Mr Brown said: “Jeremy Hunt is every bit as callous as his Tory colleagues - consistently voting in Parliament against the right for EU nationals to remain in their homes, while slashing welfare spending and giving tax cuts to the rich.
“During his time as Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt brought the NHS in England to its knees - forcing doctors to take legal action in an attempt to stop backdoor privatisation of the health service.
“But Mr Hunt makes no effort to hide his extreme views – having previously called for the NHS to be dismantled and replaced by a run-for-profit system.
“And of course it was Jeremy Hunt during his time as culture secretary that first came up with the idea of making over-75s pay for their TV licence. “People deserve better than this pair of dangerous Tory candidates to become the next Prime Minister – it’s time for Scotland to choose a different path and take our future into our own hands.”
A spokesman for Mr Hunt said: “This bundle of lies and personal smears from the SNP shows how worried Nicola Sturgeon is becoming about the challenge from the Scottish Conservatives. Jeremy’s record, including the battles he has fought to make a success of the Olympics, improve the NHS and fight for Britain’s interests abroad as Foreign Secretary, are clear to everyone."