A FORMER Scotland secretary has belittled the country saying it would be in a very lonely place after gaining independence.

The comments follow the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon setting out her road map to an independence referendum in Holyrood on Tuesday, declaring a date of October 19, 2023, for a consultative plebiscite.

The bill to set the vote in motion has been referred by the Lord Advocate to the Supreme Court.

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Sturgeon’s announcement has prompted both celebration and outrage across the political spectrum in Scotland.

And former cabinet minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind spoke out against Sturgeon's plan on BBC Radio 4, referencing Scotland's population as he talked down the country.

He said: “Now that the United Kingdom is not in the EU, if Scotland breaks away, first of all, it will neither be in the United Kingdom internal market nor the European internal market.

“It could take them years to be accepted as a member of either, so Scotland, little Scotland with five million people, my country of birth, would be in a very, very lonely place, neither able to have a free market with the rest of the UK nor with the European Union, at least for a good number of years.”

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He also described Sturgeon’s plans for a second referendum on Scottish independence as a “never-endum” as he made the case against it.

He said: “She has a mandate to ask for a referendum, she doesn’t have a mandate to deserve a referendum.

“You don’t have referendums in countries every few years, until the side that wants independence hope they might one day win. That’s what’s called a never-endum, not a referendum."

Rifkind's political career includes being caught up in a scandal after he was recorded offering access and influence for cash by Channel Four’s Dispatches.

Reporters, posing as Chinese investors, filmed him alongside Jack Straw as the two high-ranking former Foreign Secretaries were asked about a supposed board vacancy.

They were both cleared of wrongdoing after the parliamentary watchdog found "no breach of the rules on paid lobbying".