Rishi Sunak has rejected Liz Truss’ assertion that Nicola Sturgeon should be ignored, branding her remarks as “dangerously complacent”.
Truss this week described Scotland’s First Minister as an “attention seeker” and said that the best thing to do would be to “ignore her”.
However, her Conservative leadership rival has insisted that the party cannot bury its head in the sand in the face of the challenge from the SNP.
Sunak and Truss will travel to Scotland for the leadership hustings in Perth in just under a fortnight’s time.
And both are likely to be pressed over their position on the prospect of a future referendum on Scottish independence, as well as how they will work with the First Minister.
Setting out his plans for Scotland if he were to become prime minister, Sunak pledged that his government would be the most active in the country in decades.
The former chancellor promised that to do so, he would be sending ministers to Scotland with more regularity, as well as reforming the union unit within Number 10.
“Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP pose an existential threat to our cherished union,” Sunak said.
“Arguing that we should ignore them is dangerously complacent.
“We can’t just bury our heads in the sand and pretend they aren’t there – we need to stop them in their tracks.
“That’s exactly what I would do as prime minister – holding the SNP to account for its failings and personally ensuring that the UK Government has a laser focus on delivering for every part of our United Kingdom.”
SNP MP Mhairi Black said that Sunak does not have “the faintest idea” what ordinary people are dealing with.
“Rishi Sunak is the same man who has slashed Universal Credit by over £1,000 for millions, hiked National Insurance payments and has now just admitted he wants to take public money from the areas that need it most and hand it over to the wealthier towns,” she said.
“He has made it crystal clear that he stands for just one thing, making the rich richer and the poor poorer, and people across Scotland know this.
“As the richest MP in Westminster, he doesn’t have the faintest idea what ordinary people in Scotland, and elsewhere, are facing daily during this Tory-made cost-of-living crisis as bills and food prices sky-rocket.
“Scotland hasn’t voted for the Tories for more than 50 years, yet we keep getting saddled with Tory governments and Tory prime ministers who will only ever work to widen the inequalities gap and try to block Scotland’s democratic right to choose its own future.”