SCOTTISH Tory leadership hopeful Michelle Ballantyne has been branded a "conspiracy theorist" after claiming a secret report showing how Scotland would “benefit” from climate change was suppressed.

Speaking at a hustings in Edinburgh with rival Jackson Carlaw, the MSP accused environmental campaigners of jumping on bandwagon.

In remarks, reported by the Sun, she told party members: “I was talking to an expert quite recently.

“He advised me a report done on climate change for Scotland highlights that Scotland will benefit, so it’s being suppressed needless to say.

“But I don’t think it’s about saying ‘look there’s a report that says it’s all great’, it’s about understanding what impact that will have and what we need to do to change it.

"It is a bit of a bandwagon at the moment.”

Ballantyne, who is the party’s Social Security spokeswoman in Holyrood, suggested much of the climate change movement was anti-farming.

She said: “Because most of our cattle are grass-fed, actually we are a healthy nation when it comes to climate change and farming.

“We could put a stamp on that and create as a unique selling point to the world, climate-friendly cows.

"We have opportunities here around climate change and need to harness them, not just see it as a negative.”

Scottish Greens climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell said the Tory’s comments were “unforgivable”.

He added: “Michelle Ballantyne is known for ignoring the evidence of how Tory cuts have hit the poorest in society, but to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence on the climate emergency is equally unforgivable and lacks any credibility.

“To label reports from the United Nations and the UK Government’s own advisers as a ‘bandwagon’ is very dangerous rhetoric indeed. At the current rate of warming, large parts of Scotland will become flooded by 2050, crippling the economy. Michelle Ballantyne might think that is acceptable, but for those of us in the real world this is an issue requiring urgent leadership not conspiracy theories.”

SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said: “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face.

"For a prospective Tory leader to downplay its importance is bad enough, but to argue that evidence is being suppressed is utterly outrageous.”