NICOLA Sturgeon believes the Scottish Tories are “terrified” of Boris Johnson becoming the next prime minister.

The First Minister, speaking on BBC radio 4’s Today programme, said the Tory toff would push Scots towards independence after he confirmed that he intends to challenge for the party leadership.

READ MORE: Hard Brexiteer Boris Johnson confirms bid to be next Tory prime minister

Asked what impact the former foreign secretary would have on the debate in Scotland if he became the next Tory chief, Sturgeon said: "I think it would lead to many more people thinking that the best future for Scotland is to be independent so that we can protect our interests, that we can take our own decisions, that we can co-operate with other independent countries across the European Union for our mutual interest.

"In other words, be a normal, progressive independent country.

"Boris Johnson, the guy who misled people in the Brexit vote, the guy who has only ever put his own interests first as far as I can see, is a complete and utter charlatan in my opinion.

"The prospect of him becoming prime minister of the United Kingdom is, I think, one that will horrify many people across Scotland.

"Even the Scottish Tories here are terrified at the prospect because I think they know what it would do to their standing."

The National: Boris Johnson

Speaking ahead of next week’s European Parliament elections, the First Minister urged all those who opposed the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, regardless of their opinion on independence, to vote for the SNP.

“If you want to send a message that Scotland wants to remain in Europe, that we don’t want Brexit, that we didn’t vote for Brexit in 2016 and there’s no sign Scotland wants Brexit now, then vote for the party that is the biggest, strongest, most consistent anti-Brexit voice.”

Sturgeon said that even those with reservations about a Yes vote should back her party.

“The polls in Scotland would suggest that people in Scotland see the SNP as the best vehicle to send that anti-Brexit message.

“It’s no secret, top anybody, that the SNP want Scotland to be independent and the last three years have actually strengthened the case for independence.”

The First Minister dismissed suggestions that Scots were “upset” that the SNP were pushing for independence in the near future and pointed out that a majority of people want an independence referendum and that a recent poll put independence support at above 49%.

Sturgeon accepted that there was a debate about the timescale, adding: “My proposition is that if we wait too long we risk untold damage being done to Scotland’s interests, certainly by Brexit, and then possibly the prospect of having someone like Boris Johnson as prime minister of the UK.

“So being independent is the best way for Scotland in the longer term to protect our interests and make sure that we can stand up for ourselves as an independent country, like other independent countries in the European Union already do.”

The First Minister was again asked if Remainers may be reluctant to vote for the SNP for fear of breaking up the Union.

Sturgeon pointed to the SNP’s huge leads in opinion polls, which she said “suggests that people in Scotland are actually reasonably happy about the positioning and performance of the SNP”.

The next topic on the agenda was plans for a Scottish currency.

The National:

The SNP leader said using the UK pound until economic tests had been met to switch to a Scottish currency would offer Scots “security, stability and certainty”.

Probed on the timing of the switch to a Scottish currency, Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would decide when the time was right based on the interests of Scotland’s economy and society.

She added: “Crucially, people in an independent Scotland will vote for a parliament and entrust the decisions and the governance of those decisions to a democratically elected parliament – that’s the normalcy of being an independent country.”

Asked whether she "feels sorry" for Prime Minister Theresa May, Sturgeon said: "I as a leader, as somebody who's First Minister, I understand the pressures of leadership.

"And I understand how tough and challenging, often lonely, that position is.

"So on a personal level, yes I can feel a degree of sympathy about the difficult set of circumstances she's had to deal with.

"That said, I don't think she has played the hand she was given particularly well.

"I think she's taken a lot of decisions that nobody made her take that has made the situation a lot worse."