Nigel Farage has made a direct appeal to SNP voters who backed Brexit in 2016 to “lend him” their votes at next week’s European elections.
The Brexit Party leader told a campaign rally at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange on Friday night that the “political class” had “openly and wilfully betrayed” those who had voted for the UK to leave the European Union.
Mr Farage, who resigned from UKIP last year in protest at what he described as its “anti-Muslim fixation”, is widely expected to be returned as an MEP for his new pro-Brexit movement.
Recent polls suggest his Brexit Party could return as many as two MEPs north of the Border, largely at the expense of the Conservatives.
In a 15 minute speech, Mr Farage took aim at the SNP and other pro-Remain parties at Holyrood.
“We have an extraordinary situation in which Nicola Sturgeon talks about independence,” he said. “She says that separating from the UK but staying part of the EU means Scotland will be independent.
“It is, I think, the most dishonest political discourse I have seen anywhere in the world.
“You cannot be independent if you are governed from the European Court of Justice, or if you are in the EU customs union and single market.”
He added: “There are as many as 30 per cent of SNP voters who do not want to be part of the EU. I say to those voters - even though I am very much a Unionist - that unless we get Brexit, you cannot really have an intelligent debate about Scotland’s future.
“If you are genuinely a Nationalist, desert the SNP, lend your vote to the Brexit party, let’s get out of the EU, and then let’s have an honest debate.”
The former UKIP leader described a crowd of protesters who had gathered outside the Corn Exchange as a “howling mob”. But he added that it was “considerably smaller” than when he had last visited Edinburgh.
Mr Farage was forced to take refuge in the Canon’s Gait bar in the Old Town after he was swarmed by angry protesters as he left a press conference in 2013.
Outside the Corn Exchange, protesters - many waving saltires and European flags - shouted “shame” at those entering the venue.
Retired businessman Stephen Fraser said: “I want to protest against Nigel Farage and Brexit in general.
“He’s the figurehead for the whole movement. He’s encouraging people to vote for emotional reasons without engaging in facts.”