NICOLA Sturgeon has branded the contest to elect a new Tory leader a “horror show”.

The First Minister made the intervention after Boris Johnson unveiled a tax cut for the well off, Environment Secretary Michael Gove faced accusations of hypocrisy over his previous use of cocaine and a series of rival candidates believed they could negotiate a better Brexit deal with the EU and come up with a new solution to the Irish border backstop.

There was also controversy when Jeremy Hunt revealed he was in favour of reducing the legal time limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 12 weeks.

The First Minister voiced her concerns as the race to succeed Theresa May officially got underway yesterday.

READ MORE: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will tell Europe that Scots completely reject Brexit

“What a horror show the Tory leadership election is. Tax cuts for the richest, attacks on abortion rights, hypocrisy on drugs, continued Brexit delusion. True colours well and truly on show,” she wrote on Twitter.

Gove is battling to stay in the contest after it emerged he had used cocaine while working as a journalist 20 years ago, yet wrote an article condemning “middle-class drug users”.

In his launch speech in London he took aim at Johnson saying: “One thing I will never do is give the wealthy another tax cut”, adding: “The poor must come first.”

In a further swipe at his former Leave campaign ally – who is yet to give a leadership campaign press conference – Gove presented himself as a politician who would “lead from the front” and not one who would “stay in his bunker”.

Gove also told supporters he believed he would get down to the last two candidates.

Hunt, who is Foreign Secretary, used his launch to warn that the Tories would be “annihilated” if the party fights a General Election before delivering Brexit, as he pledged to lead Britain “through this time of crisis, deliver Brexit, and make our country walk tall in the world”.

Both former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and ex-work and pensions secretary Esther McVey have come in for criticism after they refused to rule out suspending Parliament in order to get a no-deal Brexit through.

Raab sought to paint himself as “the conviction Brexiteer with a plan” as he set out his stall, while McVey promised to give public sector workers a pay rise, and boost funding for policing and education.

Meanwhile, it emerged the Tory politician who took Alex Salmond’s Gordon seat in the 2017 General Election has backed Johnson.

Colin Clark was the first Scottish Tory MP to back the former foreign secretary – who has insisted the UK will leave the EU “deal or no deal” by October 31 – adding he could attract a broad coalition of supporters.

“Boris will renew the Conservative Party, deliver Brexit and ensure Scotland’s voice is at the core of government,” Clark wrote in The Times.

Nominations closed at 5pm with 10 candidates including Johnson, Hunt, Raab, Hancock, Gove and McVey. The others are former chief whip Mark Harper, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, former leader of the House Andrea Leadsom and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart

Sam Gyimah, the only contender backing another referendum on Brexit, withdrew from the rafter nominations closed.

He said there was not enough time to build support.

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said the tone and policy ideas being unveiled in the Tory contest had shown that the “nasty party is well and truly back”.