NICOLA Sturgeon has accused Ruth Davidson of a “dereliction of duty” for focusing on a second referendum on the eve of the UK entering potentially disastrous Brexit negotiations.

Turning the tables on the Scottish Tory leader at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said her rival was a “one-trick pony” with nothing to say when not talking about independence.

It followed Ms Davidson demanding Ms Sturgeon drop her plan for a second referendum in the wake of the SNP losing a third of its MPs at the general election.

Instead, the First Minister attacked the Tories, accusing Theresa May of cutting a “grubby deal” with the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) to stay in power, even if it meant endangering the Northern Ireland peace process by undermining the UK government’s role as honest broker.

However, Ms Sturgeon conspicuously dodged a question from Labour’s Lewis Macdonald on whether her civil servants were still working on plans for a second referendum.

The heated exchanges began after Ms Davidson asked Ms Sturgeon whether, in light of the SNP’s election losses, she considered calling a referendum in March a mistake.

Ms Sturgeon said she would “reflect” on the result and set out her views “once I have had the time to properly consider the interests of not just my own party but Scotland as a whole”.

She went on: “Given the results of the election UK-wide, I think that it is a dereliction of duty for Ruth Davidson or any other politician to be focusing only on what might happen at the end of a Brexit process and not on what is about to happen in just four days’ time.

“On Monday, this hapless UK Government is about to start a formal negotiation with the EU with no mandate for its hard Brexit position and no consensus even within its own ranks, let alone in the country more widely, about what it is trying to achieve.

“In short, we are going to be led off the cliff edge by a Tory Government that is devoid of legitimacy and credibility and utterly clueless about what it is trying to achieve. That is the real and present danger to Scottish jobs, investment and living standards.”

She said the Tories were a “shower of charlatans” who had jeopardised the economy and ran the risk of making the UK “an international laughing stock” with their recklessness.

Mr Davidson replied: “It is the same every single time. You ask her for her referendum plan and she hides behind her Brexit bogeyman.

“This has got nothing to do with listening to the people, it's all about how she can find a way to re-float or re-brand her sinking dream of independence.

“She says she's listening to the folk of Scotland and so she should. Her referendum isn't wanted so will she ditch it now?"

Ms Sturgeon said Ms Davidson had shown people “she is nothing more than a one-trick pony, having to confront any issue other than an independence referendum, she is left floundering".

The First Minister then used a question from SNP backbencher James Dornan about LGBTI rights to launch a further attack on the DUP, who oppose same-sex marriage.

She said: "I want to record my deep-seated concern... at the prospect of some sort of grubby deal between the Tories and the DUP to allow Theresa May to cling to office... because of a real concern about the disregard that is being shown for the Northern Irish peace process."

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said teachers were up to £6,000 a year worse off under the SNP because their pay had not kept pace with inflation, and a recent EIS decision to ballot on strike action was sign that staff felt “enough is enough”.

Ms Dugdale also highlighted an EIS survey that found nine in ten teachers saw their workload increase in the last year, and fewer than half would recommend teaching as a career.

Ms Sturgeon said the government would continue to invest to maintain teacher numbers and put “more resources into the hands of headteachers” to help them meet challenges.

The Tories later said Ms Sturgeon’s attack on talks with the DUP took “hypocrisy to new levels” as three years ago Alex Salmond said he would work with the DUP at Westminster.

A spokesman said: “As usual with the Scottish Nationalists, it is one rule for them and another rule for everyone else. It is double standards like this which is turning off Scots in their thousands. The SNP is in a mess, and everyone knows it.”