Rishi Sunak has been urged to apologise for "comparing  North Korea, Iran and Russia with those people in Scotland who believe in independence."

The SNP's Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn said the Prime Minister had equated almost half of the Scottish public to "war criminal Vladimir Putin".

"We know that his sorry time in office is rapidly coming to a conclusion," the Aberdeen South MP said in the Commons. "Is this really how he wants to be remembered?" 

READ MORE: SNP fury as PM lists Yes suppporters among 'extremists'

In a speech on Monday, the Conservative leader warned of an “axis of authoritarian powers” seeking to undermine Britain.

These included China, Russia, Iran and North Korea and other “extremists [who] are also exploiting these global conflicts to divide us”.

He said: “People are abusing our liberal democratic values — the freedom of speech and right of protest — to intimidate, threaten and assault others, to sing antisemitic chants on our streets and our university campuses, and to weaponise the evils of antisemitism or anti-Muslim hatred in a divisive, ideological attempt to set Briton against Briton.

“And from gender activists hijacking children’s sex education to cancel culture, vocal and aggressive fringe groups are trying to impose their views on the rest of us.

“They’re trying to make it morally unacceptable to believe something different and undermine people’s confidence and pride in our own history and identity. Scottish nationalists are even trying to tear our United Kingdom apart.”

Mr Flynn raised the comments during Prime Minister's Question. 

He said Mr Sunak had "actively compared North Korea, Iran and Russia, with those people in Scotland who believe in independence."

He added: "So can I ask him to rise once to the standards of befitting of his office and apologise for those puerile and pathetic remarks?"

The Prime Minister said Mr Flynn had misquoted him.

"That's not what I said. But I would say that his party is indeed a threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom.

"I hate to remind him that that's literally their entire purpose.

"Because when the people of Scotland accepted the referendum in 2014, it was the SNP who did not.

"They went on creating a minister for independence, focused on constitutional wrangling ignoring the needs of the people.

"Education standards, falling, taxes rising. So actually, finally, he should do the right thing and end the obsession with independence and put the needs of the Scottish people first."

READ MORE: Ross Supports PM's Naming of Independence Backers as Extremists

Mr Flynn pushed back. "Let's be clear," he told MPs. "What the Prime Minister did was not just to equate my colleagues and I to despotic and dangerous despots across the world.

"He proactively compared almost half of the Scottish population with a war criminal like Vladimir Putin, and he did so as their Prime Minister, as the man who represents them on the world stage and the man who on these isles is tasked with defending their liberties and their democracy

"We know that his sorry time in office is rapidly coming to a conclusion. Is this really how he wants to be remembered?"

Mr Sunak said the SNP politician was "distracting from the actual record" of his party in government.

"This obsession with independence means that Scottish schoolchildren are being let down, plummeting down international league tables.

"The Scottish NHS, the only place in the United Kingdom where funding is actually falling in real terms and taxes going up for ordinary hardworking families and small businesses.

"That is what the SNP are doing in Scotland, while this UK Government is delivering for them."

Mr Flynn's comments echoed remarks made earlier in the day by John Swinney.

Speaking during a visit to Alloa Academy on Wednesday, the First Minister told LBC: “I think the Prime Minister’s reference was poorly judged, very poorly judged.

“I don’t think it helps to assist civilised, reasonable debate in our society. There’s absolutely no relationship between all of these classifications that he linked Scottish nationalists to.

“I want to make sure we have respectful debate. I think the Prime Minister’s contribution slotted in directly to disrespectful debate.

“I think he should apologise, I think he should withdraw his remarks. I think they’re foolish remarks.”

READ MORE: Indy backers extremist? No, Prime Minister, that's the UK

 Douglas Ross defended the Prime Minister during an interview with the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland.

He said: “Well what Rishi Sunak was discussing in his speech on Monday was threats to the United Kingdom and this was a wide-ranging speech on a number of threats.

“And I don’t think anyone would believe that a party that wants to tear up the United Kingdom, end the United Kingdom by removing Scotland from it is anything but a threat to the United Kingdom.”

When he was asked why Mr Sunak had put Scottish nationalists alongside Iran and North Korea, Mr Ross said: “Well, if you listen to the entire speech by the Prime Minister, he was going through a range of issues and on threats to the United Kingdom, the future of the United Kingdom is under threat from a party that wants to destroy the United Kingdom,” he said.

“The SNP get up every morning to tear Scotland out of the UK.

"I want Scotland to remain a strong, integral part of the United Kingdom and that’s why I will never support their plans for separation, sadly plans that are still at the forefront of the thinking of the new Scottish Government led by John Swinney.”