A SENIOR Tory politician has been rebuked after suggesting Scotland is part of England during a rant about the First Minister.

Oliver Dowden branded Nicola Sturgeon a "giant among pygmies" in the SNP – while clarifying that the SNP leader is not a “wonderful person” in “any way”.

Speaking at his party’s conference, the Tory co-chairman attacked Holyrood ministers for their record in government, claiming they are “falling massively behind the rest of England”.

The SNP branded the former minister’s comments “ignorant” and said the Tories are “out of touch”.

A spokesperson told The National: “The fact that Oliver Dowden, with his ‘rest of England’ gaffe, seems to think Scotland is part of England is far more revealing than anything else he says.

“It shows how massively ignorant, out of touch and cack-handed Boris Johnson’s Tories are when it comes to Scotland.

“But once he has been able to find Scotland on the map, Mr Dowden and his colleagues would do well to understand that the momentum for independence is strong and will remain so – as Scotland’s preeminent historian Sir Tom Devine recently said, those who think independence threat is receding are living in a ‘fool's paradise’.”

The National: Oliver Dowden attacked the SNP during his speech to the Conservative Party conference Oliver Dowden attacked the SNP during his speech to the Conservative Party conference

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In a speech to Conservative members in Manchester, Dowden outlined plans to win back seats from the SNP.

"I do think there's a real opportunity for us in Scotland for a couple of reasons,” he said.

"First of all, Nicola Sturgeon is not going to be there forever and after Nicola Sturgeon the rest of them – I'm not saying in any way Nicola Sturgeon is a wonderful person, but compared to her comrades as it were, she's a giant among pygmies, and so I think as she goes they will be very weakened.”

Dowden added: "And secondly, I think we have a real opportunity to focus on the actual delivery of the nationalists in Scotland, which has been completely lamentable – whether it's education, whether it's health, they are falling massively behind the rest of England.

"Nicola Sturgeon constantly tries to distract from this by talking endlessly about independence.

"We need to bring that focus back on their delivery in Scotland, which is lamentable."

At Westminster, the SNP currently have 45 MPs compared to six Tory MPs, four LibDems, two Alba Party members, one Labour and one independent from the Scottish seats.

In the Scottish Parliament, 64 of the total 129 MSPs are SNP. The Tories have 31 MSPs.