DOUGLAS Ross has accused the SNP of “frothing at the mouth” over the “golden opportunity to push independence.”

In a speech to the right-wing Policy Exchange think tank, he also accused Nicola Sturgeon’s party of being “no different from nationalist movements we see in other countries”.

The Scottish Tory leader said: “They see nothing wrong with black-listing a shop because of the way the owner votes, or boycotting a product because it has a Union flag on it.

“Over the summer we were reminded of this again when people crossing the Border for work and travel were shouted at to ‘go back to England’.”

The Moray MP – a keen supporter of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal – added: “And in the middle of a global pandemic, when thousands of Scots have lost their lives and tens of thousands of jobs are at risk, there are many SNP councillors, MSPs and MPs who believe that preparing for an independence referendum now is a good use of their government’s time, who show more interest in the latest poll numbers than the latest R number.

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“Instead of trying to bring people together in a time of crisis, they are frothing at the mouth over what they see as their golden opportunity to push independence.”

That angered SNP activists. Julie Hepburn tweeted: “‘Frothing at the mouth’?!? What a snide and deliberate misrepresentation of people like me across Scotland who want independence – which BTW would give us the ability to better navigate difficult times like these and make life better for everyone who lives here.”

During his speech, Ross also raised the furlough scheme, saying it had been a “real and tangible reminder of the economic security of the Union” between Scotland and the rest of the UK and should be available to other nations whenever it is needed during the pandemic.

Ross backed calls by the Scottish Government to give devolved nations more flexibility on furlough access.

He said: “It was right that the Chancellor announced the introduction of the furlough scheme and that it would be available to all parts of the UK for the period that it is being delivered in England.

“But we have to go further.

“We simply cannot have a situation where there has to be a request for Scotland or other parts of the UK to have the furlough scheme.

“I continue to have discussions with the Treasury and other departments. I’m hopeful that we will get the right outcome with this, but I also think it was right to take a stand on it because it’s important for Scottish businesses and Scottish jobs that they get the support from the furlough scheme.”

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Reacting to the speech, Scotland’s Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, tweeted: “Following discussions yesterday, I again call for 80% furlough to be available when Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish businesses (not just English ones) need it, now or in future. If the UK Gov insist on retaining the financial levers to extend furlough, then they must deliver.

“The irony of the Scots Tory leader discussing the Union this morning is not lost, after months of UK Gov disregard for our calls to extend furlough when business needed it most, with a mini extension only granted at the 11th hour when one part of the UK needed it.”

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She added: “I also call again on the UK Gov to confirm it will cover any shortfall if demand-led business support grants cost more than the funding the Scot Gov has been given.

“I don’t want to be in this position -– but reasonable, simple request for fiscal flexibilities have been denied.”

Earlier in the day, Ross had criticised the Prime Minister’s previous refusal to impose tougher restrictions to curb a second wave.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, Ross said: “I don’t think anything should have been ruled out and it probably was a mistake of the Prime Minister to rule out a national lockdown, because if this virus has shown us anything it’s that you can’t rule anything out given the way it develops and how cases can go up and come back down again.

“We thought in August that in Scotland and across the UK that we’d really got on top of this virus and here we are, a few months later, clearly back into a situation where there is a concerning level of people being infected from the virus”.