Rishi Sunak tonight said it is “dangerously complacent” to ignore Nicola Sturgeon, after leadership rival Liz Truss came under fire for the remark.

Mr Sunak, whose hopes of becoming the next PM took a massive dent after a video showing him bragging about diverting funds from deprived urban areas came to light, said he has a plan to beat the SNP.

He ruled out granting a fresh referendum over Scottish independence, instead claiming he would “lead the most active UK government in Scotland for decades”.

It comes after Ms Truss branded the Scottish First Minister “an attention seeker” and said the best approach is to “ignore” her.

Her comments, made at a hustings event in Exeter on Monday, were branded “cack handed” and “unacceptable”.

Tonight Mr Sunak said: ” Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP pose an existential threat to our cherished Union. Arguing that we should ignore them is dangerously complacent.

Rishi Sunak says it's 'dangerously complacent' to ignore Nicola Sturgeon after Truss jibe

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“We can’t just bury our heads in the sand and pretend they aren’t there – we need to stop them in their tracks.

“And 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.”

His campaign team that as chancellor, Mr Sunak ensured £41 billion per year for Scotland, and protected around a million Scottish jobs during the pandemic.

Earlier this week Ms Truss told host Seb Payne: “I feel like I'm a child of the union, I really believe we're a family and we're better together and I think the best thing to do with Nicola Sturgeon is ignore her.”

Rishi Sunak says it's 'dangerously complacent' to ignore Nicola Sturgeon after Truss jibe

Nicola Sturgeon was dismissed as an 'attention seeker' by Liz Truss

Tory members cheered and applauded the comment, with the Foreign Secretary adding: “She's an attention seeker, that's what she is.

“What we need to do is show the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales what we're delivering for them and making sure that all of our Government policies apply right across the United Kingdom.”

But it sparked an immediate backlash.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the attack on Ms Sturgeon from someone hoping to be the next occupant of No 10 is “completely and utterly unacceptable”.

He said: “People in Scotland, whatever their politics, will be absolutely horrified by the obnoxious remarks that Liz Truss has made.”

Mr Swinney told BBC's Good Morning Scotland: “Nicola Sturgeon has far more democratic legitimacy than Liz Truss is going to have if she becomes the prime minister, and I think Liz Truss has absolutely no right or foundation to make these remarks.”

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