THE First Minister has been accused of making a "tasteless" link between the plight of Ukrainians fighting Russia's invasion and the campaign for Scottish independence. 

Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Donald Cameron said that Nicola Sturgeon had used “wholly inappropriate” language in a New Statesman article published on Thursday.

A spokesman for Nicola Sturgeon said the Tory claim was "a flat-out lie.”

In the feature, the First Minister says that Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has “cast new light on the realities of Brexit and the particular challenges posed to Scotland and the rest of the UK by being taken out of the world’s biggest single market.”

She writes: “Indeed, the events of recent weeks have underlined the importance of independent countries cooperating in supranational organisations such as the EU.

“And the Kremlin’s senseless invasion, a standing threat to the values embodied by liberal democracies everywhere, has also underscored the need for democratic nations to pursue our domestic politics with as much passion and vigour as ever. This is a time to stand up for, and demonstrate, the power of vital, robust democracies.”

The First Minister goes on to say that with liberal democracy being “anathema to Putin and his regime” it becomes “even more important to engage as passionately and disputatiously as ever in vigorous political debate within and among the world’s democracies”. 

Ms Sturgeon says this includes robust argument over how to address the “deep-rooted issues of poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity that have been allowed to fester for far too long.”

The First Minister says that her government “is pressing ahead with an agenda that aims to address these problems directly” but that “there is a limit to what we can accomplish while so many powers lie beyond our control.” 

She adds: “That is why we are determined to achieve independence for Scotland by offering the choice of a better, fairer future. This is in line with the democratic mandate we secured at last year’s Scottish parliament election, in which the SNP won the highest share of the vote of any party in the history of devolution and a record number of pro-independence MSPs were returned to Holyrood.

“Independence will not be without challenges and hurdles. But I have no doubt it can help deliver that better future for the people who live here. I also believe it can have a positive, transformative effect on the rest of Britain.

"I have often spoken of how the bonds of family, friendship and culture – which include my own family story – will endure after independence.

"I believe that now as strongly as I ever have. There is no reason at all why, after Scottish independence, those ties will not continue to flourish."

The First Minister then says that while an independent Scotland would "always be part of the British Isles," it will "take its place as a member state in its own right of both the European Union and Nato."

Ms Sturgeon adds: “And our European partners know, now more than ever, that they can depend on an independent Scotland as a beacon of peace and democracy, as together we face the greatest challenge posed to those principles since 1945.”

Responding to the article, Mr Cameron said: “It appears there is no issue that is beyond Nicola Sturgeon when it comes to pushing her endless obsession with breaking up the United Kingdom. 

“It is astonishing that pushing the case for another referendum was at the forefront of the First Minister’s mind when writing about the truly horrendous situation in Ukraine.

“The language used here by Nicola Sturgeon is wholly inappropriate and she needs to urgently apologise for this piece, given the continued tragic humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Ukraine.”

The First Minister's official spokesman said Ms Sturgeon had "made absolutely no such link" and that there was nothing in the article "which in any way substantiates their suggestion".

Earlier this month, an SNP MSP was forced to apologise after linking Ukraine’s struggle for survival after a Russian invasion to Scotland seeking independence from the UK.

Michelle Thomson tweeted that Ukraine’s application for EU membership today “just goes to show what political will can achieve”, adding: “Remember this Scotland!”

She later deleted the tweet and apologised.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson came in for sustained criticism from across Europe after comparing the resistance of the Ukrainian people to the UK’s decision to Brexit.

In a speech to the Conservative spring conference in Blackpool, the Prime Minister said that the world faced a moment of choice “between freedom and oppression”.

He went on: “There are some around the world, even in some western governments, who invoke what they call realpolitik. And you say that we’re better off making accommodations with tyranny.”

He then added: “And I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time. I can give you a couple of famous recent examples. When the British people voted for Brexit, in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”

The SNP’s leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, described the comparison as “morally repugnant”.

Ukraine's former president Petro Poroshenko said: "Only today we have 150 Ukrainian children who were killed by Russian soldiers and Russian artillery.

"Can I ask you how many houses were destroyed because of Brexit? We have whole cities that have been completely destroyed," he said, adding: "With this situation, please, no comparison."