A FORMER SNP councillor who has switched to the Tories has described his old party as a “far left extremist movement that is buying votes by giving out freebies”.

Dumfries & Galloway’s Andrew Wood, an SNP member for over 20 years, also said Scotland’s strained public finances were a “major stumbling block” to independence.

He said reducing the nation’s deficit after a Yes vote would mean “more tax rises and greater public spending cuts”.

He said: “I know many SNP members will not like to read the truth, but at present Scotland is benefiting financially from being in the UK.”

He also said the SNP government had been an “absolute failure” on business, citing loss making nationalisations and the £250m CalMac ferries fiasco.

The SNP said the councillor appeared to have "left reality behind" as well as the party.

Cllr Wood quit the SNP in July last year after falling out with the group leader Rob Davidson and being snubbed for a senior role.

He initially sat as an Independent, saying at the time that “out of respect to the party members in the ward.... I owe it to them not to join another party”.

However he has now joined with the Tory opposition in Dumfries & Galloway, which is run by a Labour-SNP coalition. 

Cllr Wood, who represents the Mid and Upper Nithsdale Ward, made his comments in an interview with the Dumfries & Galloway News.

He said: “The SNP has changed dramatically since the last referendum on independence, with a major influx of disenfranchised Labour supporters, plus Yes campaigners. 

“The SNP is no longer a slightly left of centre party but a far-left extremist movement that is buying votes by giving out freebies, passing legislation that gives greater state control while curtailing free speech, misleading a membership in the belief that Scotland can rejoin the EU, and regain our fishing rights offering a wealthy and prosperous outcome.

He went on: “Yes, any nation can operate an independent nation, but it is about what kind of nation we want.

“In recent years Scotland has only managed to generate eight per cent of the UK’s total revenues from taxes and oil.

“However we benefited from 9.3% of the UK’s total spending on public services such as the NHS, schools and pensions.

“So let’s be honest, in that reducing such a deficit requires more tax rises and greater public spending cuts.

“I know many SNP members will not like to read the truth, but at present Scotland is benefiting financially from being in the UK.

“I would hope that those supporting or considering supporting the SNP will take this as a serious wake-up call.”

He added that the Tories offered “a more balanced and reasoned approach to delivering a Scotland that offers business the chance to grow, bringing in the finances to support much needed infrastructure development, international trade, fishing rights restored, much needed jobs while supporting those less fortunate within our society.

“Politics, is not about the party, but much more to do with how we can deliver the best outcomes for our people and future generations.”

A Scottish Tory spokesman said: "This is a damning verdict from a former SNP Councillor on his party’s lack of honesty over what an independent Scotland would look like in reality.

“Councillor Wood has delivered a few home truths on how we truly are better off in the United Kingdom.

“It is pleasing that he has seen the light and joined the Conservative group on Dumfries and Galloway Council where he is most welcome.

“We can only hope more SNP representatives will see the financial reality of what an independent Scotland would have to do to balance the books.”

An SNP spokesperson said: "Andrew left the SNP months ago. And he seems to have left reality behind as well with comments like that."