NICOLA Sturgeon has said a pro-Union tactical voting bid in the local elections shows that “Better Together are back together”.

The National asked the First Minister for her response to pro-UK group Scotland in Union’s campaign urging voters to only back unionist candidates from the Tories, Labour and LibDems, at the party’s manifesto launch on Friday.

And she hit back at the voting ploy and said that people are aware that pro-Union parties are “exactly one and the same”.

Better Together was the umbrella group for the cross-party unionist campaign urging voters to vote No in the 2014 independence referendum.

READ MORE: SNP local election manifesto pledges progress on indyref2

Labour have been heavily criticised for teaming up with the Tories and LibDems during the independence campaign, with some members saying the decision was a mistake.

The unionist group, fronted by former Labour MP Pamela Nash, launched the campaign with the slogan “Vote 1, 2, 3 to stop the SNP”.

Nash, who was an MP until 2015 - the same year Scotland in Union was launched -, said on Thursday that “pro-separation councillors will be fixated on Nicola Sturgeon’s push for an unwanted and divisive second referendum on leaving the UK.”

She added: “We don’t need any more SNP or Green councillors who spend time and resources on preparing for an unwanted and divisive second referendum, while our public services are suffering.”

The National put these claims to the First Minister at the party’s manifesto launch in Greenock.

The National: Former Labour MP Nash is chief executive of Scotland in UnionFormer Labour MP Nash is chief executive of Scotland in Union

She said: “SNP councillors will and do support indendence and will support the Scottish Government’s mandate for a second referendum, it would be a strange version of democracy if anything other than that was to be the case.

“In terms of the comments from Scotland in Union - it just proves that Labour, the Tories, Liberal Democrats, Better Together are back together.

“I think people know they’re exactly one and the same.”

In response to the First Minister's speech, Nash said: "This confirms that every SNP councillor elected will spend valuable time trying to further Nicola Sturgeon’s ambition to divide us once again, instead of improving local public services.

"They will be campaigning for an unwanted referendum as early as next year rather than standing up for local communities in the face of SNP cuts.”

READ MORE: Have we covered your local area in our council election profiles?

We told yesterday how Nash and the campaign group were accused of “a desperate attempt to mislead voters” by the Scottish Greens.

The party said that the local elections have “absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the new referendum Bill” which will be laid in the Scottish Parliament.

They also said Nash was “pathetic” for telling the public to vote Tory when the Prime Minister is currently engulfed in the partygate scandal.

However, the SNP’s local election manifesto did dedicate a full page to independence, stating that councillors will support the Scottish Government’s “clear mandate” to hold a second independence referendum by the end of 2023.

The National: The SNP local election manifesto dedicated a page to indyref2The SNP local election manifesto dedicated a page to indyref2

It comes as SNP MP Pete Wishart broke party ranks to urge the public to “vote until you boak” by ranking all candidates on their ballot papers.

Wishart, that party’s longest serving MP, said that the best way to get rid of Unionist councillors is to rank them last.

In the local election, the Single Transferable Vote system is used, where voters can rank candidates in order by number - and can vote for as many or as few as they like.