JACKSON Carlaw has been branded “pathetic” after suggesting the coronavirus crisis will hamper the case for independence.

The Scottish Tory leader claimed it would now “look ridiculous” for the SNP to focus their 2021 Holyrood election campaign on indyref2.

The SNP warned no politicians should “use the appalling crisis we all currently face as an argument for or against independence”.

Speaking to PA news agency, Carlaw said there will be no guarantee that the SNP will regain their place as the largest party in Holyrood.

"I still maintain that by the time we come to the election next year, the Scottish Government will have been in power for 14 years, people will have come through an exhausting crisis,” he said.

"Let's remember, [Winston] Churchill won the war but the people turned to [Clement] Attlee after it.

"I don't think it follows that the Scottish Government can simply assume that the people of Scotland are all going to fall in behind them when it comes to an election where we're debating the future of Scotland after that."

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Scotland could diverge from rest of UK’s plan

Carlaw then argued that making Scotland's constitutional future a centrepiece of their campaign may hurt the SNP at the polls.

He said: "I don't expect nationalists to surrender the ground at this point, but quite honestly I think it will look ridiculous if the first debate that the nationalist movement want to have when we get to the other side of this is 'let's go gung ho for independence next year' then more fool them if they do.

"I think the public will look at that and say 'are you kidding?'"

Carlaw went further, claiming one of the major factors in Scotland being able to tackle the outbreak so aggressively was due to the "economic resilience and strength" of the whole of the UK.

Reacting to the comments, SNP MSP Graeme Dey wrote on Facebook: “Absolutely pathetic ... people are dying and he is playing petty party politics!”

A spokesman for the SNP added: "Jackson Carlaw may be thinking about next year's election – but the First Minister and the SNP government are fully focused on tackling the current health crisis and the impact on jobs and incomes.

"Latest opinion polling shows that the SNP overwhelmingly continues to hold the trust of the Scottish people.

"But Mr Carlaw needs to be very careful with his arguments – the coronavirus pandemic is not a Scottish, British or European issue, it is a global one.

"And the last thing any Scottish politician on any side of the constitutional debate should be doing is trying to use the appalling crisis we all currently face as an argument for or against independence."

Scotland is in lockdown. Shops are closing and newspaper sales are falling fast. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of The National is at stake. Please consider supporting us through this with a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months by following this link: http://www.thenational.scot/subscribe. Thanks – and stay safe.