DAVID Mundell has hit out at the SNP’s “demonising” of Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson.

Responding to the former foreign secretary’s confirmation that he will be in the running to replace Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon called Johnson a “complete and utter charlatan”.

The First Minister has also said that if Johnson becomes prime minister, support for independence will “sky-rocket”.

Earlier this year, Ian Blackford described him as a “bumbling Foreign Secretary who is making the UK a laughing stock”.

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Now Mundell has come to the defence of his Tory party colleague.

Reacting to Sturgeon’s previous criticism of Johnson, The Scottish Secretary told The Herald: “That’s the sort of thing she says; that’s the sort of language she uses. I’m not accepting this Nationalist demonising of him...”

Mundell said, however, that he would not back Johnson in a Tory leadership contest.

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May will set out the timetable for her departure in early June after a crucial Commons vote on the Brexit agreement she thrashed out with the European Union, with defeat likely to hasten her exit from Number 10.

Despite his latest comments, Mundell has previously been critical of Johnson.

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Last autumn at the Tory conference, MPs moved to stop Johnson getting into the final run-off for the party leadership. They dubbed the exercise “Operation Arse”.

At the same conference, the Scottish Secretary said Johnson was “not an asset” to the party in Scotland and accused him of being "focused on his own self-interest and not on the interests of our country" after he criticised May’s Brexit proposals.