NICOLA Sturgeon has launched a scathing personal attack on Boris Johnson live on TV as the gloves came off in the most passionate exchanges of the EU referendum campaign so far.

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The First Minister laid into Mr Johnson's Vote Leave's claims that the UK voting for a Brexit would claw back £10 billion a year from Brussels as a “absolute con.”

She went further, claiming that the former London Mayor was not interested in protecting people’s jobs but only interested in getting David Cameron's.


Mr Johnson insisted Britain would be more prosperous if it “took back control” and that it was “perfectly true” that the country sent £350 million a week or £10bn a year to Brussels, which it had no control over and could be better spent to help ease the pressures on the NHS caused by “uncontrolled immigration”.

But the claim caused one of the flashpoints of the two-hour showdown when Ms Sturgeon branded the Vote Leave £350m slogan emblazoned on its campaign battle-bus “an absolute whopper” while Amber Rudd, the Conservative energy secretary, dismissed it as “pure fantasy”. Labour’s Angela Eagle told Mr Johnson: “Take that lie off your bus.”

READ MORE: EU offers safety net against Tory devastation, says former Prime Minister Gordon Brown

But the Conservative MP won applause when he declared: “We are talking about cold, hard cash that belongs to the people of this country.”


Ms Sturgeon suggested it was a bit rich for the Tory backbencher to talk up the NHS when he was someone who once called for people to be charged to use it. “I would not trust Boris Johnson on the health service as far as I could throw him,” declared the FM.

She insisted it was the Conservative government’s austerity programme that was causing funding problems in the NHS not immigration. “Blame the politicians, don’t blame the immigrants,” she insisted.

READ MORE: EU offers safety net against Tory devastation, says former Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Both sides repeatedly accused each other of scaremongering and peddling lies with Mr Johnson facing personal attacks on more than one occasion.

Ms Rudd in an opening clash on immigration numbers, turned on Mr Johnson, saying: "I fear that the only number that Boris is interested in is the one that says No 10."

Later, Andrea Leadsom for Leave attacked Ms Sturgeon for arguing that Britain should stay in the EU so that the democratically elected Tory government could be overruled. “It’s absolutely outrageous,” she declared.

The Tory energy minister also attacked the Nationalist leader over the issue of sovereignty and Scottish independence.

Ms Leadsom said there had been a vote on Scottish independence in 2014 when the No camp won 55 per cent to 45 per cent but that the SNP leader was “determined to have another go because it was the wrong answer”. The minister then declared: “She is not a democrat.”

The FM made clear that she wanted an independent Scotland but that she was putting that argument aside to put forward the view that independent nations had to operate in an interdependent world and “work together for the greater good”.

According to Remain sources, Ms Sturgeon’s appearance in the debate was never a certainty. They stressed that she had to be “cajoled” into appearing beside a senior Conservative given that she had previously indicated she would not share a platform with one. One insider claimed she vetoed appearing alongside Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, on the Remain panel.

David Robertson for SNP Vote Leave criticised Ms Sturgeon for sharing a platform with a Tory minister, noting how during the independence referendum the Nationalists criticised Labour for working with the Tories, said: “Now, Nicola is doing just that; appearing alongside a Conservative government minister.”

The TV debate took place as Labour today steps up its push to win the working class vote for Remain; it is thought such voters could prove crucial to the referendum outcome.

SNP In Europe Campaign Director Humza Yousaf MSP said: “The First Minister made the progressive case for continued EU membership from a distinct Scottish perspective – but also outlined why staying in is the right choice for the UK as a whole, outlining a positive vision which has too often been missing from the campaign. 

“This debate also highlighted the complete lack of a positive case for Brexit – it is increasingly clear that the only thing a Leave vote would achieve is to put at risk the fundamental social protections we take for granted."

READ MORE: EU offers safety net against Tory devastation, says former Prime Minister Gordon Brown