RUTH Davidson is facing a huge backlash in England as well as Scotland over a party email in which she urged voters in Peterborough to back a Tory candidate because he “voted for Brexit”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused the Scottish Tory leader of a “jaw-dropping U-turn” in her support for leaving the EU – while a senior English Tory also told The National her intervention had sparked a furious reaction among his party associates.

Yesterday, in an email sent out to Tory supporters – and journalists – Davidson asked for small donations to help get Paul Bristow elected in next week’s by-election in Peterborough.

She wrote: “Elect a new Conservative MP for the constituency who voted for Brexit and who can be trusted to deliver on the result of the 2016 EU referendum – or let in Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate who will back a second referendum if she is elected.

“I know which of them would best represent the views of voters in Peterborough, and that’s why I’m backing our hard-working Conservative candidate – local man Paul Bristow. “

“A small donation” she added, would “go a long way towards helping elect Paul and ensuring that Peterborough has a Conservative MP who will deliver on the EU referendum result, not a Labour MP who will try to overturn it.”

Sturgeon called the shift “jaw-dropping”, adding: “From telling people in 2016 that Brexit would be a disaster, to now seeking support for a Tory candidate because he ‘voted for Brexit’ – there is not a shred of principle or consistency at play here.”

Brexit-backing senior Tory Party member Jack Irvine, the former editor of the Scottish Sun, also criticised Davidson’s involvement.

He told The National: “A number of my Tory friends in London stuck the Davidson letter under my nose last night and said: ‘Who does this woman think she is? She’s not an MP. She sits in the Scottish Parliament and she’s never won an election’.

“We don’t know whether to be angry at her for her naivety and naked ambition or to weep at the fact that we don’t have a single senior Tory in England who might be thought worthy of endorsing our Peterborough candidate.”

Irvine, who runs major PR firm Media House and splits his time between homes in London and Renfrewshire, worked on the Brexit Party’s March to Leave. He is a member of the Cities of London & Westminster Tories, and in earlier years was a “substantial donor” to the party in East Renfrewshire. In the run-up to the 2016 referendum, Davidson was a prominent campaigner for Remain. Just a week before the country voted, Davidson took part in a debate in front of 60,000 people at Wembley, which broadcast live to the whole of the UK.

She told voters the Brexit campaign had misled them: “You are being asked to make a decision that is irreversible, we can’t change, we wake up on Friday and we don’t like it and we are being sold it on a lie because they lied about the cost of Europe, they lied about Turkey’s entrance to Europe, they lied about the European army because we’ve got a veto over that.

“They put these in their leaflets and they’ve lied about it here tonight, too, and it’s not good enough. You deserve the truth – you deserve the truth.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Tories said: “Ruth is backing a Conservative candidate who wants to deliver Brexit because she is a Conservative who wants to deliver Brexit.”

Peterborough’s by-election was sparked after voters decided to get rid of Fiona Onasanya. The former Labour MP was jailed after being found guilty of perverting the course of justice by lying to police in a bid to avoid a speeding penalty. She became the first MP in the UK to lose their seat in a “recall petition”.