FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak for using the Covid-19 crisis to make “nonsense” political arguments.

Sturgeon’s comments came after Sunak suggested Scotland would have struggled to cope through the pandemic if it were independent.

Unveiling his mini-Budget last week, he told MPs “no nationalist can ignore the undeniable truth” that the Government borrowing which now supports furlough and other economic support measures “has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom”.

Restating her call for more borrowing powers for Scotland, Sturgeon responded: “Fundamentally, I don’t think he’s right to be making overtly political points about this. I’ve tried throughout this not to do that because I think what we’re dealing with is too important to do that. But it’s a nonsense argument.”

Sturgeon said “smaller countries all over” have had to make their own decisions on how to handle the pandemic, with some having “to some respects bigger fiscal stimulus” than the UK.

She went on: “The issue here, right now, is that he holds the borrowing powers – and remember, this is borrowed money, and the people of Scotland will play their part in repaying that borrowing, just as people elsewhere in the UK [will].

“It’s a limitation on the powers right now of the Scottish Government that means we have to rely on the Treasury and if he wants to give more flexibility, which we’ve been asking for, for the Scottish Government around borrowing in particular, then we can do more even than we’re doing right now.

“These kinds of nonsense points, frankly, I think are a bit regrettable and ridiculous, particularly given the severity of what we face.”

Defending Sunak, the Treasury stated: “The Chancellor was making the point that we are stronger and better able to support each other in the Union.”

Meanwhile, Scotland’s only Labour MP has been urged to stop siding with the Tories as the coronavirus border row intensifies.

Ian Murray accused the First Minister of a “constitutional obsession” after she was questioned on potential border closures on The Andrew Marr Show.

Sturgeon said importation of Covid-19 cases into the country will be “one of our biggest risks over the next few weeks”. And, confirming that she will keep the issue of cross-border travel “under review”, she stated: “That’s not political, it’s not constitutional, it’s just taking a similar view to countries across the world in terms of protecting populations.”

Murray said: “It’s either a constitutional obsession or a lack of confidence in the Scottish Government’s own system that is driving the First Minister to talk about closing borders.

“Labour’s priority as lockdown measures are eased is not squabbling over the border, but jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Sturgeon insisted that her “entire focus [is] on leading the country through the biggest crisis that any of us have ever experienced”.

She said “there may be a lesson” in the fact that polls show increased support for Yes at a time when her party has “not been talking about independence all the time but getting on with the job of autonomous decision-making”.

Responding to Murray’s statement, the SNP said: “Instead of wasting his Sunday afternoon trying to stir up division and score political points, Ian Murray should join with SNP MPs in pressing the UK Government to deliver the financial powers and investment needed to support people through this crisis and secure a strong recovery for Scotland.”