A PROMINENT ally of Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “a new low for the SNP” after saying the death of old people was delivering a “gain” for independence.

Angus Robertson, a former SNP deputy leader who is trying to become an MSP, said “55,000 predominantly No supporting voters [were] passing away every year”.

Combined with more Yes-supporting young people reaching voting age, that had produced a “gain of over 100,000 for independence” since the referendum of 2014.

Critics said the comments were “disgraceful” given the recent loss of thousands of old people from coronavirus and the emergence of a potentially lethal winter surge.

In response, Mr Robertson called the criticism "politically motivated" and "manufactured outrage".

Mr Robertson, who is trying to win the SNP candidacy in Edinburgh Central, made the comments in an article for the National whose  headline said "the momentum is with us”.

He wrote: “Since 2014, opinions have clearly not been static, and polls have shown a gradual rise in support for independence. 

“This could be in significant part because of the underlying change in the electorate, with roughly 55,000 predominantly Yes supporting 16-year-olds joining the electorate and 55,000 predominantly No supporting older voters passing away every year.

“Since 2014, this has added around 330,000 voters to the electorate, with a likely net gain of over 100,000 for independence.”

Although “demographic change” is often cited by academics as a factor in waning support for the Union, the remarks were condemned by the Holyrood opposition parties.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said called them “disgraceful and deeply disappointing”.

He said: “Suggesting that the most vulnerable age group, who have been hardest hit through the tragic loss of so many lives throughout the pandemic, are a boost to his independence obsession.

"A new low for the SNP.”

Labour health spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP said on Twitter: “Thousands of people have been banned from family funerals... Covid-19 cases rising, but the man tipped as a successor to Nicola Sturgeon thought this was ok. Not ok AngusRobertson.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton tweeted: “Wow. This is really dark. At least we see you for what you are now, Angus Robertson”.

Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson accused Mr Robertsoon’s SNP colleagues of a shameful silence over the remarks.

He tweeted: “Yet to see any SNP MSP or MP condemn Angus Robertson’s unacceptable comments about the 'net gain' to indy of deaths of older voters. Not even one.”

Thomas Kerr, the leader of the Tory group on Glasgow City Council, said the comments from Mr Robertson were “vile”.

He tweeted: “Is this civic and joyous nationalism NicolaSturgeon?”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “These are crass and deeply insensitive remarks, particularly at a time when so many in Scotland are mourning the deaths of loved ones.

"It is regrettable that Angus has made these comments and he should apologise for the hurt he has caused.”

Mr Robertson said: “I have two elderly parents and like everyone else want the best for them and all older people.

"I was presenting simple statistical facts about the support for independence amongst different generations in changing society.

"This manufactured outrage and attack on me is demonstrably politically motivated.

"Andy McIver, the former head of communications for the Scottish Tories and I made exactly the same point in different articles on the same day.

"The fact that Tories have only attacked me tells you everything you need to know”.