Alex Cole-Hamilton has accused Nicola Sturgeon of being “unspeakably arrogant” in pushing for a de facto Scottish independence referendum at the next general election.
It comes in the wake of the Supreme Court in London ruling that the Scottish Parliament does not have the powers to hold a referendum.
The Scottish Government had planned for a vote to take place on October 19, 2023.
A general election must take place no later than January 2025.
Sturgeon has insisted that Scottish democracy “will not be denied”, despite the UK’s highest court blocking the path for a referendum next year.
Following the verdict, the SNP leader indicated that her party will treat the next general election as a de facto referendum.
However, she stated there the opportunity “remains open” for the UK Government to come to an agreement with the Scottish Government on allowing a referendum to take place.
Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, criticised the First Minister over her bid to make independence the key issue in the next election.
But, the SNP argued that it is “outrageous” for people in Scotland to be denied the chance to decide upon their future.
“The ink wasn’t even dry on a damning Supreme Court judgment before Nicola Sturgeon decided to pivot to a selfish Plan C – hijacking an election for a de fact referendum. I find that unspeakably arrogant,” Cole-Hamilton said.
“No party or politician gets to dictate what an election is about. The people decide that. They give politicians their instructions.
“The next general election will be about critically important issues, from the cost of living to the climate emergency, to the state of the health service.
“It will be a chance to change our country’s future and remove the chaotic Conservatives from power, just like Liberal Democrats have been doing through our record by-election wins.
“Yet the SNP and Greens are effectively saying, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, forget all that – this is only about our thing’.”
Cole-Hamilton added: “The Scottish Liberal Democrats won’t play their game. As a liberal and democratic party, we know how important these elections are.
“If the SNP and Greens won’t fight the cost of living crisis, the NHS crisis or the climate crisis, Scottish Liberal Democrats will.”
SNP MSP Emma Roddick hit back at Cole-Hamilton, as she said the need for independence is “beyond any doubt”.
“What is unspeakably arrogant and quite frankly outrageous is denying people across Scotland a say over their future in a referendum when they overwhelmingly voted for it,” she said.
“The refusal to accept that Scotland has a right to choose its own future is neither liberal nor democratic.
“It’s a disgrace and illustrates the utter contempt Westminster parties have for people across Scotland.
“At a time when households are suffering the brutal consequences of years and years of cruel Westminster governments they didn’t vote for, it’s beyond any doubt that independence is essential to build a better future for everyone in Scotland and people must have the chance to choose that future.”
Ross Greer, Scottish Green MSP, underlined the need for people in Scotland to be given the opportunity to vote for independence.
He said: “Independence would give Scotland the opportunity to deliver the transformative social, economic and environmental change that is so badly needed.
“It would allow us to build a fairer and green country for everyone.
“If Westminster continues to block the democratic referendum that Scotland unequivocally voted for at last year’s Scottish Parliament election, then we will give voters the opportunity to choose independence via a Green vote at the next general election.
“The alternative is a cavalcade of Westminster governments Scotland didn’t vote for, more economic devastation, threats to the basic human rights of immigrants and refugees, and direct attacks on Scottish democracy and the Scottish Parliament itself.
“If the Lib Dems want to support that, it’s their choice. But what they can’t do is deny the rest of the country the right to vote for the future we want just because they’re afraid of the likely result.”