Scotland could be on the receiving end of more "panda diplomacy" as China steps up hostilities with the UK Government.

A state-run newspaper in the country has urged the Communist superpower to back the SNP's independence campaign in a move it said would send shockwaves through the Westminster Government.

Relations between the UK and China have been icy since Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg met the Dalai Lama last year. On the same trip First Minister Alex Salmond failed to meet the exiled Tibetan leader.

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Two Chinese pandas currently on loan to Edinburgh Zoo, Yang Guang, or Sunshine, and Tian Tian, also known as Sweetie, are expected to try to mate next month. Whether they would remain in Edinburgh if Scotland left the UK has already been the subject of fierce debate.

The editorial in the Beijing-based Global Times said: "China cultivating more contacts with separatists in Northern Ireland and Scotland would make London quite uncomfortable. Perhaps it's time for Britain to change its way of thinking. Chinese now don't want to be bothered by such tough posturing."

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "Far from being an act of generosity, we now know the Chinese had antagonism in their hearts when loaning Tian Tian and Yang Guang. Life is not all Sunshine and Sweetie after all."