SCOTLAND is to be thrust to the centre of the EU referendum campaign with the announcement today that Nicola Sturgeon will take part in a live head-to-head TV debate, expected to be with leading Brexiter Boris Johnson.

The two-hour set-piece event, staged by ITV, next Thursday at 8pm could well prove to be the most dramatic confrontation to date between those for and against Britain staying in the European Union.

David Cameron has declined to take part in any such head-to-head debates. Mr Johnson, the former London mayor, is tipped by some to succeed him as Tory leader and prime minister should the Brexit camp win the vote on June 23.

HeraldScotland: Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech to easyJet employees at the airline's headquarters in Luton, as he claimed that leaving the EU could put 230 on the cost of a family holiday and 4 on the price of a phone call home.

A senior source close to Ms Sturgeon said that she had been given a “personal invitation” as First Minister to take part in the televised debate in London rather than as a formal representative of Stronger In Europe. However, the pro-EU campaign is believed to have been “very keen” for her to participate, particularly given her strong showing in head-to-heads during last year’s General Election.

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“The First Minister is very happy to take part and will be making the positive, progressive case from a Scottish perspective for remaining in Europe.

“But the message – about why we believe staying in the EU is better for jobs, workers’ rights, prosperity and security – will be one for an audience across the whole of the UK,” said the source.

He added that in the 2015 election debates Ms Sturgeon received strong support from people south of the border despite the fact they were unable to vote for her party. “This time,” he stressed, “it will be different as they will be able to vote for her cause.”

One issue that is certain to be raised is that of a second independence referendum should Scotland be “dragged out of the EU” on the back of a UK Brexit vote. It will push Scottish interests to the centre of the referendum campaign.

HeraldScotland: Energy Secretary Amber Rudd

The ITV Referendum Debate will involve three senior figures from either side of the In-Out divide. It is believed alongside Ms Sturgeon for the Remain argument will be Conservative Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, and Angela Eagle, the shadow business secretary.

The development comes as chief Brexiter Michael Gove in a set-piece TV event on Sky last night branded the EU a “job destroying machine”, which, he claimed, had led to his father losing his job and his fishing business in Aberdeen “going to the wall”.

In feisty exchanges, the UK Justice Secretary, said he was “glad” no international economic body supported Brexit as they had failed to predict the 2008 crash and had recommended Britain joining the single currency.

HeraldScotland: Justice Secretary Michael Gove before taking part in a live Sky News interview with Faisal Islam, left, and a Q and A session moderated by Kay Burley

The Scot insisted he was “with the people” against the “invincible arrogance of European elites” and attacked the Prime Minister, whom he accused of a “depressing litany” of scaremongering.

Mr Gove argued a vote to leave would mean Britons would “take back control of our democracy” and through their talent, generosity and graft make Britain “once more truly great”.

Today, Stronger In will target the working class Labour vote with a letter and video released by all the former leaders of the Labour Party, warning of the consequences of a Brexit vote.

Read more: Michael Gove compared to First World War general over EU referendum stance

The letter says: “Europe protects people at work, stimulates jobs and innovation, keeps prices lower, leads global action against climate change, makes us safer against terrorism and magnifies Britain's voice and values in the world.”

Elsewhere, Jamie Dimon, the boss of international investment bank JP Morgan, which employs more than 1,000 staff in Glasgow and some 16,000 across the UK, warned Brexit would "be a terrible deal for the British economy" and could cause the company to slash its British workforce.

But Steve Baker, a leading Leave campaigner, said voters would not be bullied by someone "whose bank helped crash the economy".