NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of peddling “scurrilous and malicious rumour-mongering” after she claimed the Labour leadership had encouraged its MPs to back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

The First Minister made her inflammatory suggestion ahead of Saturday’s debate and vote in the House of Commons.

The main motion on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal was not put to a vote because an amendment, tabled by Sir Oliver Letwin, the former Conservative Cabinet Minister, was passed; it seeks to ensure the Government’s Withdrawal Bill is passed first before Parliament formally ratifies it so at to act as an insurance policy that Britain does not crash out of the EU without a deal come October 31.

The Government lost the vote by a majority of 16. Labour supported the Letwin amendment but six of its 245 MPs - Sir Kevin Barron, Ronnie Campbell, Jim Fitzpatrick, Caroline Flint, Kate Hoey and John Mann – defied Jeremy Corbyn and sided with the Government.

Ahead of the so-called “Super Saturday” Commons session, Ms Sturgeon said her “growing suspicion” was that Labour would allow Mr Johnson to “get his deal over the line”.

“I hope I'm wrong about that but I'm simply surmising from what I'm hearing; you know, piecing things together. It seems to me it is possible we have a situation where Labour have an official position of opposing this deal but are giving nods and winks to the so-called Labour rebels in the hope there's enough of them that allow it over the line."

The SNP leader added Labour would never be forgiven in Scotland if its MPs turned out to be the “handmaidens of Boris Johnson's Brexit".

But Paul Sweeney, the Shadow Scotland Office Minister, hit back, telling The Herald: “We won't be holding our breath for an apology for Nicola Sturgeon's scurrilous and malicious rumour-mongering.

“Well done to the Labour whips for working so diligently to seal Boris Johnson's defeat.”

The Glasgow North East MP, noting how Labour would bring forward an amendment to hold a referendum on any deal, added the SNP's ulterior motive for “suddenly chasing” a general election over a public vote was “driven by short-term party interest rather than the national interest to sort this issue out first”.

He added: “Stopping Brexit also undermines any claim[they have] to have a mandate for another referendum on independence.”