LEADING figures in Scottish civil society have attacked Boris Johnson for undermining democracy, warning that the UK’s international reputation has been left “in tatters”.

An open letter has been signed by 22 prominent names in politics, education and the creative world raising “deep concern” at the current crisis in UK politics.

It is calling for an extension toArticle 50, with the EU’s agreement; an election, and a people’s vote to bring to an end to the UK political crisis and “divisions, anger and the risk of violence”.

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The letter states the UK’s reputation internationally has been ruined, which has been “toxic” for Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU and where politics has remained democratic.

The signatories include senior politicians such as former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, Labour peer Lord George Foulkes and Baroness Helen Liddell, former Scottish secretary.

Former first minister Henry McLeish and Lord George Robertson, former secretary of state for defence, have also lent their backing.

Other names on the letter include actor Brian Cox, leading historian Professor Sir Tom Devine, former chief medical officer Professor Sir Harry Burns, former diplomat Dame Mariot Leslie, artist Professor

Richard Demarco, poet Christine De Luca, and Professor Christopher Smout, Historiographer Royal of Scotland.

The letter states: “Democracy requires robust debate, respect for facts and for the key institutions underpinning our democracy.

“Currently our democracy is under attack by some of those who should defend it, and our politics is failing.”

The letter welcomed the unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court last week, which ruled that the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue – or suspend – Parliament was unlawful.

The National: Boris Johnson's prorogation was deemed unlawfulBoris Johnson's prorogation was deemed unlawful

It notes the decision was “defending parliamentary democracy against an executive acting improperly and thereby potentially avoiding scrutiny”.

But it goes on to say: “However, we condemn the response of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, both his failure to apologise for his unlawful prorogation of Parliament, let alone resign, and his assertion that the Supreme Court’s 11 justices were wrong.

“We also condemn attacks from the Government front bench at Westminster on Parliament itself.

“Unlawfully suspending Parliament is a legal, political and moral error – to accuse the re-opened Parliament of moral failure, in the face of the disregard shown for democracy by the Government, cannot go unanswered.”

The letter raises concerns about the “inflammatory and toxic” language which is being used by some.

Last week Johnson angered many MPs by using words such as “betray” and “surrender” as he spoke in the Commons.

There was outrage when he dismissed a plea to stop using inflammatory language in the light of the murder of Jo Cox as “humbug”.

The Prime Minister also drew gasps when he said the best way to honour the memory of Cox was to “get Brexit done”.

She had campaigned to remain in the EU and her widower Brendan Cox said afterwards the remarks had left him “feeling sick”.

The letter criticises Johnson over these comments, saying: “Like many others, we are also deeply concerned at the inflammatory and toxic language used by some.

“Divisions have grown across the UK, notably in England, since the Leave vote in 2016. Now is a time for respect and reasoned debate.

“We find particularly inappropriate, Mr Johnson’s comments on Jo Cox, who was a passionate democrat and campaigner for Remain.”

It adds: “The UK’s reputation abroad – in Europe and beyond – lies in tatters. In Scotland, home to the Enlightenment, the undermining of the UK’s democracy and our reputation abroad looks simply toxic.

“Here, a large majority voted for – and still support – remain.

“Yet while the Brexit process has unfolded in the last three years, with little attention paid to Scotland, Scottish politics has remained democratic and not facing the sort of crisis we see at Westminster.

“We call on Mr Johnson urgently to set an example by ending his, and his colleagues’, populist and inappropriate rhetoric and to act from now on to defend, not undermine, our democratic institutions.”

The letter suggests the way out of the crisis is to hold both an election and a people’s vote to consider if the UK wants to go ahead with Brexit or not.

It says this will also help begin “the long but vital process of rebuilding a functioning democratic politics and ending divisions, anger and the risk of violence.”

Dr Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, who is one of the signatories, said: “I hope this letter will add to all those across the UK who want to help defend our shared democracy and to resolve the deep crisis Brexit has caused.

“As the letter says, democratic debate in Scotland – while often sharp – still looks healthy and functioning, which today you cannot, in all honesty, say about Westminster and the divides we see in England.”