THE Tories were last night facing a European backlash over a “dirty tricks” plan to ask Brussels to block Scotland’s membership of the EU as part of a war game strategy to scupper independence.

Neale Richmond, a Fine Gael TD and close political ally to former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, criticised the proposal and said Scotland would be a welcome new member.

“Scotland has been very good to Europe and we miss our Scottish friends dearly from the EU,” he said.

Richmond spoke out after a report, from political consultants, Hanbury, was leaked to Bloomberg, set out four main planks to stop independence following a poll last week which showed a record 58% of Scots now support independence.

The plans included:

  • Asking EU for help to stop Scotland joining
  • Keep delaying indyref2
  • Make a new constitutional offer to Scotland with more powers for Holyrood, possibly on immigration
  • Focus political attack on First Minister before 2021 poll

Richmond, who has been a fierce critic of Brexit, last month condemned Boris Johnson’s plan to override the EU withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol which the Dublin politician said would put the peace process at risk.

Asked about what he thought of the Tory plan to get the EU involved in blocking Scotland’s future membership, Richmond said: “Any country in Europe can apply to join the EU and if they meet the Copenhagen criteria then they will be admitted.

“If Scotland was to vote for independence and in turn apply to join the EU then I see no reason why the EU would not accept them in due course.

“From an Irish point of view, having another English speaking, common law jurisdiction with a similar outlook in the EU would be a very welcome thing.”

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He added: “I do not see how the UK can expect the EU to block such a membership application. I don’t think the EU would take kindly to such a request, things may have been different in 2014 but the UK has left the EU, they have supposedly taken back control.”

Responding to the leaked memo, the SNP MP John Nicolson tweeted: “Love the idea that Boris Johnson’s Brexit Tories think they’ve enough capital in the chancelleries of Europe to get pro-EU, post independence Scotland excluded. They’re delusional.”

Scotland’s Brexit Minister, Michael Russell, wrote: “What a surprise ... It is the Tory way to try and do politics. Pay oodles to ‘political consultants’ and try any trick or deceit rather than listen to what the people of Scotland are saying.

“Particularly love the assumption in the leaked London Tory dirty tricks plan against Scotland that the EU will be happy to meekly do the UK’s bidding even after the way they have been treated during Brexit.

“Tory arrogant exceptionalism has no bounds.”

Pollsters believe rising support for independence is down to Johnson and the First Minister’s contrasting ways of handling the pandemic and their Brexit stances with Nicola Sturgeon’s views more in line with Scots after the country backed remain in 2016.

The 21-page memo was written by political consultants Hanbury, which was set up by Ameet Gill, former prime minister David Cameron’s one-time director of strategy, and Paul Stephenson, who was director of communications for pro-Brexit group Vote Leave.

One of the firm’s partners is James Kanagasooriam, who worked with the Scottish Conservatives on elections in 2016 and 2017.

A Cabinet Office spokesman declined to comment saying the document is not a government one.

The Scottish Conservatives were asked for a comment.