NICOLA Sturgeon has accused the UK Government of using “despicable” plans to send asylum seekers to Africa as a distraction from the partygate scandal.

The First Minister spoke out as Humza Yousaf accused Boris Johnson’s administration of racism.

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel are unveiling a multimillion-pound deal on Thursday which could see asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats sent to Rwanda for processing.

It comes as the Prime Minister faces a second police fine for attending another law-breaking party in Downing Street during lockdown.

Sturgeon, as well as Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford, said Thursday’s announcement was part of a plot to draw attention away from illegality at Number 10.

The SNP leader tweeted: “A despicable policy on its own terms.

“But add the fact that it’s being set out today to distract from #partygate and you see the utter moral bankruptcy of this Tory government laid bare. Shameful.”

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf added: “UK Govt rightly provides asylum and refuge to Ukrainians fleeing war, but wants to send others seeking asylum thousands of miles away to Rwanda for ‘processing’.

“And you still question whether this heartless Tory Govt is institutionally racist?”

READ MORE: Priti Patel should resign over Ukraine refugee policy, SNP say

Drakeford joined a chorus of condemnation from politicians and charities.

He posted: “The UK Government’s plans to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda is cruel and inhumane.

“This is not the way to treat people seeking safety and sanctuary.

“This is nothing more than a cynical distraction from the Prime Minister’s law breaking.”

An initial £120 million is expected to be given to the Rwandan government under a trial scheme, which is being criticised by refugee charities as a “cruel and nasty decision” that will fail to address the issue and “lead to more human suffering and chaos”.

Asylum seekers who remain in the UK while their claims are considered could be housed in stricter reception centres under the plans. The first will reportedly open in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, in North Yorkshire.

The Prime Minister is set to argue in a speech on Thursday that action is needed to combat the “vile people smugglers” turning the ocean into a “watery graveyard”.

Patel, who is in Rwanda to sign the deal, is then expected to set out further details of a “migration and economic development partnership” during a visit to the capital of Kigali.

It is thought the asylum seekers will be encouraged to relocate and rebuild their lives in Rwanda, rather than the UK, with more information on how the arrangement will work anticipated in the coming days.

Sabir Zazai, Scottish Refugee Council chief executive, said: “We are appalled by today’s announcement that the UK Government will seek to offshore the UK’s asylum system to Rwanda.

“This policy is a very clear breach of international law. It is state-sanctioned violence in practice.

“The timing of this announcement is shamefully political. As pressure mounts on those at the top of this government, they are using the rights and the lives of refugees to deflect from their own political woes. This is utterly reprehensible.

“That this government is choosing to model its asylum policy on Australia’s, a failed system mired by well documented serious human rights abuses, is shocking."

Defending the scheme, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart told Sky News: “I think the first thing is we have to deal with this problem. We have a very good relationship with Rwanda. It’s an up-and-coming economy, it has got a very good record with migrants in this particular issue.

“And it’s an arrangement which I think suits both countries very well and provides the best opportunities for economic migrants, for those who have been in the forefront of this particular appalling problem for so long now.

“And I think that this arrangement is a really… it has the potential to be a really good step forward and a really humane step forward.”

When pressed on the fact the president of Rwanda has been accused of human rights abuses on more than one occasion, Hart said: “That is true, but that doesn’t alter the fact that their reputation as far as migrants are concerned, and their economic progress, is phenomenal.”