THE SNP has accused the remaining five Tory leadership candidates of dodging scrutiny after the latest TV debate was cancelled by Sky News.

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss both said they would not attend, forcing the broadcaster to pull the plug on the programme.

Conservative MPs are said to be worried televised debates are harming the party’s image with candidates attacking one another in recent showings and exposing deep rifts between warring internal factions, Sky News reports.

Sunak and Truss are in the top three with the backing of 101 and 65 MPs, respectively. Trade minister Penny Mordaunt is in second place with 83 backers at the most recent count.

SNP Deputy Westminster Leader, Kirsten Oswald, said it was "ironic" the debate - organised to allow people to get to know candidates - had been called off because people had done "just that".

She said: “You couldn’t put a cigarette paper between these Tory candidates but the least they could do is participate in this charade that makes the process feel a little more open and inclusive.

READ MORE: Child refugees 'disappear' under Home Office watch, damning new report finds

“It’s now well-known that these debates were orchestrated by the Tories to let the public get to know the candidates - and ironically canned because the public has done just that.

“Whoever wins this ridiculous contest, Scotland loses. It’s only with the full powers of independence that we can escape Westminster control for good and build a new Scotland, free of Tory governments we haven’t voted for since the 1950s.”

One candidate will be eliminated in a vote among Conservative MPs on Monday – with the result expected by 8pm.

In fourth place is Kemi Badenoch, who is seen as being on the right of the party, with 49 backers. 

Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the foreign affairs committee, is currently in last place with only 32 MPs backing his bid to lead the party.

Sunday night’s ITV debate saw the leading candidates accusing each other of peddling “socialist” economics and of being out of touch.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said candidates pulling out of the debate showed a lack of "confidence".