Boris Johnson is urging Scots to use next month’s “crucial” General Election to call a halt to Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a second independence referendum.
The Prime Minister, who is campaigning in Scotland on Thursday, will urge voters north of the border to back the Conservatives – warning the only alternative is a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn which would “spend next year dancing to the SNP’s tune”.
Ms Sturgeon, the SNP leader and Scottish First Minister, has already set out plans to hold a fresh vote on independence in the second half of 2020.
And with Labour pledging to hold another Brexit referendum if Mr Corbyn is voted into Downing Street, the PM warned against the prospect of having two “divisive” referendums next year.
Speaking ahead of his visit north, Mr Johnson said: “This is a crucial election for Scotland. A vote for the Scottish Conservatives is a vote to stop a second independence referendum and to get Brexit done so we can spend 2020 taking back control of our fishing waters, getting a fairer deal for our farmers, and investing in public services to give people better healthcare and better education.
“The other choice is a vote for Jeremy Corbyn who would spend next year dancing to the SNP’s tune, wasting the year with two divisive referendums – one on the EU and one to give up on our union.
“Only a vote for the Conservatives will stop the SNP’s plans to break up the UK – the most fantastic and successful political union in the world. I will never give up on our incredible union.”
But Ms Sturgeon said: “The only thing Boris Johnson should be coming to Scotland to do is apologise for the chaos he and his party have subjected us to for years.
“He is a prime architect of the Brexit vote and the utter shambles it has now led to.
“A vote for the SNP is a vote to escape Brexit and to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.”
She said her party is the main challenger to the Conservatives in the 13 seats they hold in Scotland – and added the SNP would “do our bit in trying to ensure his time in Downing Street has already come to an end”.
The First Minister demanded: “Boris Johnson should apologise not just for the Brexit mess he has created, but also for a decade of Tory austerity that has caused so much misery for so many.
“He should also come clean on his Brexit deal and his plans for a no-deal exit in barely over a year’s time if a trade deal cannot be agreed.
“That would be a disaster for Scotland and the rest of the UK, and it underlines the huge threat the Tories pose.
“Whatever happens in this election, Brexit will not in any sense be done – even if a deal is ultimately passed.
“It is an issue which is set to dominate Westminster politics, one way or another, for many years to come. That is why it is vital Scotland chooses to escape Brexit by opting for a better future with independence.”
Ms Sturgeon has already said that if the SNP wins the most seats in Scotland on December 12, demands for a second ballot on leaving the UK will become “irresistible”.
She suggested Labour is already “pretty much conceding” it could not stand in the way of a second independence vote, and added: “I suspect it won’t be too much longer until we see the Tories struggle to maintain that argument as well.
“This idea that for self-interest reasons Westminster politicians can stand in the way of people in Scotland choosing their own future, we already see that start to crumble.”
However Mr Johnson said that 2020 should be “the year of investment and growth, not the year of two referendums”.