PEOPLE who support independence are a “threat” to the UK, a Scottish Tory MSP has said as he also insisted Rishi Sunak was wrong to list them as “extremists”.

Edward Mountain, an aristocrat who represents the Highlands and Islands region for the Conservatives, was challenged on his views of Scottish independence supporters during an appearance on the BBC’s Debate Night on Wednesday.

It came after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak listed "Scottish nationalists" among the "extremist" threats facing the UK in a major speech – and then refused to apologise for having done so when challenged in the House of Commons.

Commenting on the speech, The National columnist Lesley Riddoch said Sunak had been “utterly scraping the barrel”.

READ MORE: 'No way': Extremism expert debunks Rishi Sunak attack on 'Scottish nationalists'

She went on: “I don't know how many iterations has Rishi Sunak gone through in trying to present a new face of the Tories – now he's trying to say that the safety of the nation and security and so on is ‘safe with us’. No, nobody is buying that.

“I mean, today England has had to actually accept that it can't even have more trials because it has no prison places to put people. This is the level of not being able to kind of manage basic security in your country that should concern a prime minister.”

She then pivoted to ask Mountain: “Am I an extremist?”

In response the Tory MSP said he did not think Scottish independence supporters are extremists – but instead he considers them a “threat”.

Asked if Sunak should apologise, Mountain said: “I think you've got to be really careful to read the context in which they were put. He was talking about threats to the United Kingdom. And sure, I believe that splitting up the United Kingdom is a threat to the United Kingdom.

“Now, as a Unionist politician, I'm going to make no apology for defending the United Kingdom or wanting it to stay together.”

Asked if people who had voted for independence were extremists, Mountain responded: “I don't think that's what I said.

“What I said was, I see them as a threat to the United Kingdom.”

“That’s even worse!” Riddoch interrupted. “You're saying half the population of Scotland is a threat to the United Kingdom.”

READ MORE: Douglas Ross defends Rishi Sunak's 'extremist' comments on Yes movement

Pushed by Riddoch, Mountain went on: “Don't pick me up on that. I'm talking about whether there is an issue with the United Kingdom being broken up, I think there is.”

On Wednesday, First Minister John Swinney called on Sunak to apologise for his “foolish remarks”.

“I think he should apologise, I think he should withdraw his remarks, I think they’re foolish remarks and they don’t help having reasoned debate in our society,” Swinney said.

However, at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sunak called the SNP “a threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom” as he refused to apologise for comparing Yessers with extremists and dictators.