The National:

SCOTTISH Tories were clambering over themselves to condemn Nicola Sturgeon yesterday after the leader of the pro-independence SNP dared to suggest that she wants independence.

The Scottish Tories' former leader Ruth Davidson was quick out of the gates, giving an interview in which she said: “Nicola Sturgeon saying that she could well try and push through an indyref next year or even in just a few months time is both irresponsible and crazy.

“We haven’t got a single dose of the vaccine out there to get us past Covid and we need to repair the economy and we need to work across the whole of the UK in order to do that.”

She also said that Sturgeon should not throw “constitutional hand grenades” and instead “stick to the day job”.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Indyref2 'should come in earlier part' of next Holyrood term

The fact that Sturgeon’s day job, as the SNP leader, is to lobby for independence seems lost on Davidson, who also tweeted: “There she goes again. By her own words - Nicola Sturgeon wants to push for another indyref next year; grossly irresponsible as we rebuild after Covid.”

Of course, the First Minister did not actually say she was going to “push for another indyref next year”, despite the fact that Davidson claims to have heard it in “her own words”.

Sturgeon actually said she would neither “rule it out nor rule it in”, but that she currently had to focus on guiding the country through a pandemic. Davidson obviously didn’t hear that bit.

What Davidson also seems not to have heard about is Brexit (talk about “grossly irresponsible as we rebuild after Covid"), and some of her own comments.

Speaking to the BBC last year, Davidson said: "If she [Sturgeon] puts it in a manifesto that she's going to hold another referendum and she wins a majority outright, then she can negotiate with the UK Government in the same way as happened last time.”

Well that seems likely, given that the SNP haven’t polled below 50% in the last year (not that manifesto promises normally matter to Tories, as the recent “deplorable” aid cuts show).

Going back a little further, so likely a little harder for Davidson to remember, the former Scots Tory leader said in 2017: “Let me be clear: nobody, not me, not anyone, is expecting the SNP to give up on independence.

"That is what it believes in and it is a perfectly honourable position to take.”

In 2016, she said she had “never” called for indyref2 to be denied, adding: “Constitutionally the UK Government shouldn’t block it, no.”

In 2015, she said: “If the SNP puts in its manifesto that it has an intention to hold a second referendum, and if it wins an outright majority, I think it does have a mandate to hold one.”

READ MORE: SNP demand inquiry into 'rampant cronyism' at heart of Tory Government

Davidson even went a step further back then, telling the Guardian she would advise Downing Street not to block indyref2 “because I actually don’t think, in the longer term, Westminster saying ‘No you cannae’ will play well in Scotland, and I think that it would damage the Unionist cause”.

Don't hold your breath for her to lobby for indyref2 from her cosy seat in the House of Lords.

Back in the more present term, Davidson wasn’t the only person to react to Nicola Sturgeon’s indyref comments. Douglas Ross also helpfully chimed in.

The Scottish Tories’ other leader said: “There the SNP go again, right on schedule. Their conference begins and the mask slips.

“A referendum next year is the last thing Scotland needs right now.”

Telling the people of Scotland the last thing they need right now is something to happen next year is a wonderful piece of mental gymnastics that would surely score high in any fair floor contest.

But then Tories don’t much seem to like fair contests, hence their propensity to hand million and billion pound contracts to their friends without scrutiny or due process, not to mention their determination to avoid a second referendum.

But even the Tories’ mind-bending antics couldn’t quite measure up to Duncan Hothersall, the Scottish Labour activist and editor.

After Nicola Sturgeon’s comment became public yesterday, Hothersall tweeted: “Next year's election is to decide who sits in the Scottish Parliament, and ultimately who forms the devolved Scottish Government. The manifestos for that election must and will be based on the powers devolved to that parliament.

“The constitution is not a devolved power. Therefore that election cannot give anyone a mandate to hold a second indyref.”

Ignoring that this sounds a lot like someone telling Scotland to shut up, this would of course mean that no party could run on a pro-independence ticket (if Hothersall’s version of the law is to be believed).

READ MORE: How to be a 'Voice for Scotland’s future' in new Yes video campaign

It would also mean parties in Holyrood would just have to shut their mouths about any reserved issues, like financial powers, broadcasting, and immigration. Nothing important then.

Not content with that first lot of patent nonsense, Hothersall returned to his comment two hours later to add: “The person actually emulating Donald Trump here, by trying to pervert established systems of democracy to their own purposes, is in fact Nicola Sturgeon.”

If the Unionists are like this when indyref2 is even mentioned, just imagine what they’ll be like when it’s actually happening ...