ALISTER Jack and Nicola Sturgeon have clashed after the Secretary of State for Scotland accused the First Minister of not understanding the situation in Ukraine.

The Conservative minister branded the SNP leader “naive” after she suggested a no-fly zone over Ukraine should not be ruled out by Western leaders. He said such action could ultimately lead to World War Three. 

But the First Minister's spokesman hit back at the Tory minister accusing him of "pretty pathetic" politicking.

The row follows Ms Sturgeon's interview with ITV Border on Wednesday when she said that “the West has to keep its mind open to every way in which Ukraine can be helped”.

She added: “I understand and I share the concerns about a direct military confrontation between Russia and Nato that a no-fly zone may lead to. Nobody wants to see an escalation of that nature.

“But on the other hand, Putin is not acting in any way rationally or defensibly. We have a situation right now where perhaps the only thing nuclear weapons are deterring is the ability to properly and directly help Ukraine.

“All of these things must be considered on a daily basis right now because the world cannot stand by and watch Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty be extinguished – that would be morally wrong from Ukraine’s perspective, but the implications of that for the rest of us in terms of the values we hold dear would be severe too.”

Responding to the comments Mr Jack told ITV Border: "I thought that remark was utterly irresponsible to be clear and actually very naive. A no-fly zone is not on the table. Luckily this is a decision for the UK Government. Cabinet was briefed by the chief of the defence staff on Tuesday morning and we listened to what he had to say about that. We take our lead from the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. But absolutely no way would we get involved in a no-fly zone."

The Tory minister later told Bauer: "I think what she said was utterly irresponsible and completely naive, I'm afraid she doesn't understand the situation and thank goodness it's the UK Government that take these decisions.

"In Cabinet, we were briefed by the chief of the defence staff and he could not have been clearer that we should not put in place a no-fly zone and the PM is in that place, the secretary of state for defence is in that place and the whole of the UK cabinet is in that place.

"If we started to put in place a no-fly zone we'd see ourselves in a situation, within hours, a NATO get would have to take a decision to shoot down a Russian jet and that escalation would be unbelievable. And actually, as some have said, potentially take us into World War Three. We can't put ourselves in that position.

"We're giving lethal aid and we're taking that to the border we're doing those things to support the military as we can, but we're not crossing the border and getting engaged."

Asked about Jack's comments, the First Minister’s official spokesman said: “The First Minister is not advocating a no-fly zone and we are very well aware of what our partners have said about that.

“At the same time, the FM has made clear that going forward things have to be potentially on the table as the situation evolves.

“But we are not in any way blind to the risks of escalation which various people have talked about. You possibly heard the US Secretary of State [Antony Blinken] yesterday speaking about this in Washington and he was very clear, as indeed the Prime Minister and others have been, about the risk involved. So that’s the position.

“The FM  is not calling for or advocating a no-fly zone.”

Asked about Mr Jack’s comments about Ms Sturgeon not understanding the situation, the FM’s spokesman was scathing.

He said: “I think that to indulge in that kind of politicking round this is pretty pathetic, to be honest. The issues here are of such a magnitude that I don’t think that kind of base politicking is not where we need to be. It sounds pretty patronising stuff from the Secretary of State and he should reflect on that.”

He denied Ms Sturgeon being both against and open to a no-fly zone was a “muddle”.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky repeated his call for NATO to impose a no-fly zone yesterday after the Russian bombing of the maternity and children’s ward of a hospital in the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol. 

Three people were killed in the attack, including a child. Another 17 were injured, with some patients trapped under the rubble. 

"How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror?” Zelensky tweeted. “Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity.”