NICOLA STURGEON dramatically revealed the content of a private conversation with Kezia Dugdale last night, claiming the Scottish Labour leader wanted to drop her party’s opposition to a second independence referendum.

During the final TV debate before the election, the First Minister said the Scottish Labour leader told her last June she was open to a second referendum because of Brexit. Ms Dugdale, who now says she will “never” support independence or a “divisive” referendum, later accused the First Minister of telling the country a “categoric lie”.

The Scottish Tories said the “bombshell” revelation, less than 48 hours before the polls close, had destroyed Labour’s credibility It was arguably the most dramatic moment of the Scottish election campaign, and showed a ruthless streak to Ms Sturgeon, which may cheer her own supporters but displease others. It is also likely to play into the hands of the Tories, who have long accused Ms Dugdale and Labour of being weak in their defence of the Union.

Before Brexit, Ms Dugdale said she might back a Yes vote if Scotland was dragged out the EU, then later recanted, a flip-flop that has dogged her ever since.

During the STV debate at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, Ms Dugdale criticised the First Minister for pushing for a second ballot.

She replied: “You used to agree with me. You and I spoke the day after the EU referendum.

“You told me then you thought the change occasioned by Brexit meant that you thought Labour should stop opposing a referendum.”

Ms Dugdale appeared stunned by the charge but did not deny initially it.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson then asked Ms Sturgeon to clarify, asking: “Did you just tell people that you had a private conversation with Kez Dugdale last June where she said she was going to drop Labour’s opposition to independence?”

She replied: “She [Ms Dugdale] said she thought Brexit had changed everything and she didn’t think Labour could any longer go on opposing a second independence referendum. She is entitled to change her mind, I accept that. But what I don’t think any politician is entitled to do is to deny the people in Scotland a choice about their future.”

Ms Dugdale had earlier fended off criticism Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would grant a second independence referendum, insisting Labour’s manifesto had ruled it out.

Ms Dugdale later agreed there had been a conversation, but said she and Ms Sturgeon had been sharing how “devastated” they were by the result of the EU Referendum. She said: “The idea that I would do anything other than protect the United Kingdom and fight for us to remain in the United Kingdom is an absolute nonsense.”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “I know what was said. I’m not having a go at you, Kezia. You are entitled to change your mind. I think what you are not entitled to do, though, is always to have a go at me just for wanting to give the people of Scotland a choice.”

Ms Dugdale later tweeted: “Any suggestion that I ever said to Sturgeon that I’d change Labour’s position on #indyref2 is a categoric lie + shows how desperate she is.”

Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said: “This is a bombshell revelation that holes Scottish Labour’s entire campaign below the water line.”“Kezia Dugdale has spent this campaign claiming she opposes a second independence referendum Now we learn she’s been having private chats with Nicola Sturgeon about her support for it.”

“It is an utter disgrace and it proves that the only pro-UK vote at this election is for the Scottish Conservatives.”