The SNP has said Boris Johnson "has a duty to resign" if reports he said he would rather see "bodies pile high in their thousands" than order a third lockdown are true.

Ian Blackford, the party's leader at Westminster, called for the Prime Minister to come to Parliament urgently to give a statement and face questioning, on allegations of Tory sleaze.

The explosive remark about the bodies is said to have come after he reluctantly imposed the second lockdown in England, sources told the Daily Mail.

It allegedly came after Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove warned Johnson that soldiers would be needed to guard hospitals overrun with Covid victims.

Johnson agreed to fresh restrictions but his frustration is said to have boiled over after the crucial meeting at No 10 in October. "No more ****ing lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands!" he is alleged to have raged.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson faces criticism over 'let the bodies pile high' claim

The Prime Minister is also reported to have made similarly extraordinary observations during the crisis.

The disclosure comes amid a spectacular public war of words between him and his former chief of staff Dominic Cummings.

Cummings is expected to use his appearance before a Commons committee next month to challenge the Prime Minister’s handling of the pandemic.

He tweeted over the weekend that the failure to introduce travel bans more quickly was "a very important issue re: learning from the disaster".

Downing Street last night strongly denied the Prime Minister made the comment, insisting it was "just another lie". But those who say they heard it stand by their claim.

Blackford said: "These comments are utterly abhorrent. If they are true, Boris Johnson has a duty to resign. The Prime Minister must now come to Parliament to give a statement, and face questioning, on these shocking claims and the growing Tory sleaze scandal engulfing Westminster.

"The public have a right to know what is going on, and why the Tory government has been handing out multi-million pound contracts, special access, tax breaks and peerages to Tory donors and friends.

"The difficulty for Boris Johnson is he has lied so many times it's impossible for anyone to trust a word he says. A full independent public inquiry is the only way to provide transparency and accountability. Those responsible must be held to account."

The Scottish Greens said the "heartless" comments attributed to Johnson showed that he is "totally unfit to be PM" and that they revealed a "callous" approach to human life.

Lorna Slater, the party's co-leader, said: "The latest comments attributed to Boris Johnson are heartless and disgraceful. If true they show a callous disregard for families all across the UK who have lost loved ones and underline that Johnson is unfit to be Prime Minister.

"But these accusations should not be seen in isolation. The way in which Downing Street handled the pandemic was wrong from the start, and saw one of the worst death rates in the world.

"So much of the misery could have been avoided if they had followed WHO advice on testing, closed the borders and implemented a functional test, trace and isolate system, instead of gumming up the works of public procurement and risking supplies of vital PPE and equipment by creating a VIP lane for their pals and donors."

She said: “Scotland can do so much better than this. We can and must steer a path towards transparent politics, with integrity that respects human life above all. The consequences are far too serious.

"Scotland has a way out, and that is to vote for a pro-independence majority in next week's election, and the Scottish Greens can secure that. Our future depends on it.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar added his condemnation and called for the Prime Minister to apologise.

He said: “This reported comment is repugnant and deeply distressing.

"More than 10,000 families in Scotland and 130,000 families across the UK are grieving the loss of a loved one.

"These alleged remarks have rightly been condemned by politicians from all parties, and I hope the Prime Minister reflects and apologises.

"We owe it to everyone affected by the pandemic to focus on our national recovery.

“Boris Johnson’s Tories aren't fit to be in government across the UK or the opposition at Holyrood."

Responding to Boris Johnson’s alleged recent comments saying he would rather bodies piled "high in their thousands" than order a third social and economic lockdown to stem coronavirus infections, Alistair Carmichael said:

"If this quote is correct, it is a truly atrocious comment from an atrocious Prime Minister. When Johnson himself was hospitalised well wishes flooded in from across the country, it's sad that he does not share the shame concern for others.

"Not only do these comments display a callous disregard for the tens of thousands who have lost their lives but they display a profound misunderstanding of how the public health and economic crises intertwine.

"You cannot simply open up, allow the virus to rampant and assume the economy will flourish.

"Boris Johnson and acolytes like Douglas Ross have delivered one of the highest death rates in the world. They should not now be trusted with leading the recovery."

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation, 127,417 people in the UK have died from Covid, the highest number in Europe.

Italy has the second highest death toll of 119,021 and France the death toll is 102,031, according to the WHO.

In Germany and Spain 81,564 and 77,496 people have died respectively.

This morning Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the reports were "not true".
Speaking to Sky News, the Cabinet minister said: "Look, it is not true, it has been categorically denied by practically everyone.

"We are getting into the sort of comedy chapter now of these gossip stories - unnamed sources, by unnamed advisers talking about unnamed events.

"None of this is serious. The Prime Minister has been utterly focused on delivering, alongside Cabinet colleagues, the response to Covid."

Lord Barwell, who served as Downing Street chief of staff under Theresa May, said the briefing war between No 10 and Dominic Cummings "has the potential to be extremely destabilising".

The former Conservative minister told Times Radio: "I think there will be huge frustration among Conservative MPs, councillors and candidates with the elections approaching in early May that this appears to be an entirely self-inflicted wound, that this story that we're all talking about was prompted by either someone in No 10 - or the Prime Minister himself allegedly - accusing Dominic Cummings of being behind all the recent leaks.

READ MORE: Tory sources say war with Dominic Cummings may lead to Boris Johnson's demise

"There are some significant unanswered questions still and we've seen further revelations over the weekend and in this morning's papers - clearly, potentially there is more information that might get released."

Lord Barwell said the inquiry into the so-called "chatty rat" leak regarding last year's November lockdown had taken "a long time".

"My own experience working for Theresa when we had a very serious leak from the National Security Council and she asked the Cabinet Secretary to conduct a very aggressive inquiry to find who was responsible is that actually it only took a matter of days to go through everybody's phones and email communication, so this has been going for four or five months now and I think MPs will want to know why it has taken so long and where it has got to," he added.

"It is difficult to say that (why the leak inquiry has taken so long) from the outside but it just surprises me, given my own experience of these things in the past, that we haven't had an outcome."

Health minister Nadine Dorries dismissed claims that Johnson had said he would rather see "bodies pile high in their thousands" than face a third lockdown.

She tweeted: "This is an outright lie. Not one named source or substantiated fact."