DAVID Mundell has admitted that a “chaotic Brexit” could help make the case for independence.

The Tory Secretary of State was responding to a question from ITV Border on a recent poll that suggested 52% of Scots would vote to leave the UK if the UK insists on leaving the EU.

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The minister said: “I think we always have to be alive to the fact that it is the driving purpose of the SNP to take forward an independence argument and they’re going to look to do that in any circumstances.”

He added; “A chaotic Brexit, in my view, might assist them to do that and therefore we should not aspire to achieve that for a whole host of other reasons, economic reasons, but chaos and turbulence is exactly the sort of environment in which the nationalists would see that they could take advantage of.”

The confession came after he spent the morning in front of a Holyrood committee trying to insist that Brexit was going well.

The Tory minister refused to admit to MSPs that the Prime Minister’s own Chequers plan for Brexit was a “dead duck”.

He said the plan, which has been rubbished by the EU’s chief negotiator, and members of Theresa May’s own party, was, “still live and still on the table”.

SNP MSP Willie Coffey had asked the minister “Mr Mundell, are you seriously asking us to believe that the Chequers proposal isn’t a dead duck – you can’t get it past your own party.”

The MSP repeatedly urged Mundell to unequivocally rule out supporting a no-deal Brexit. The Scottish Secretary did not.

Mundell said he would back the Chequer’s plan against a no-deal Brexit and urged Labour, the SNP and the Greens MSPs to follow suit.

The National:

Later, talking to journalists, Mundell said Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson had the “excellent qualities” needed to replace Theresa May in Number 10.

There has been speculation that the Scottish Tory chief will head to London after the next Holyrood election in 2021.

Party colleagues insist Davidson has no ambition beyond being the next First Minister. However, polls currently suggest that such a scenario is unlikely.

Reports last week suggested she had been talking to colleagues about her future, with one suggestion being that she could move to Westminster through a stop-gap appointment in the House of Lords, serving as a minister.

Speaking to the press at Holyrood on Thursday, Mundell said: “I think Ruth Davidson would make an excellent First Minister of Scotland. I think her period as First Minister will probably demonstrate that she has excellent qualities to be Prime Minister.”

He added: “I think she is one of the leading politicians in the United Kingdom, and I don’t have any doubt that she has what it takes to be Prime Minister.

“But that’s not her aspiration. Her aspiration is to be First Minister of Scotland, and once she returns from her maternity leave that will be her focus.”

While the Scottish Tories have not denied that Davidson has had conversations about a possible future in Westminster, they insisted that she wasn’t leaving Holyrood anytime soon.

A party spokesman said: “This simply isn’t the case. Ruth wants to be First Minister of Scotland.”

Mundell also attacked Alex Salmond for still working with Kremlin controlled TV station Russia Today.

He said Salmond would be doing the country a “great service” by walking away from the broadcaster.

Mundell said: “I think it’s become increasingly clear that Mr Salmond has one guiding principle in his actions, and that’s self.

“I think he would do Scotland, himself and the whole country a great service if he were to end his programme on Russian TV.”