A FORMER Labour MP is urging Scots to vote tactically for the Tories in next month’s council elections to frustrate the push for a second independence referendum.

Pamela Nash, the chief executive of Scotland in Union, warned “pro-separation councillors” would be fixated on Nicola Sturgeon’s push for Indyref2 if elected on May 5.

She said her group’s “Vote 1,2,3 to stop the SNP” campaign had already reached more than 500,000 people through leaflets, digital adverts and social media.

She said people should use their preference votes to back the Tories, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Independents on the ballot, and ignore the SNP, Greens and Alba.

The Scottish Greens called her actions desperate and "pathetic", while Alba acussed the Unionists of "ganging up" on independence supporters.

Ms Nash was the Labour MP for Airdrie & Shotts from 2010 to 2015.

Her media operation is handled by a former adviser to Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who is trying to get former Tory voters to return to Labour.

Under the proportional STV system used in Scottish council elections, voters rank their choice of candidates 1,2,3 etc, with transfer votes crucial to electing candidates.

A Scotland in Union campaign video features a ballot paper with various permutations, including the Tories ranked first, ahead of Labour and the LibDems.The Herald:

Although the election is nominally about local services, many parties are campaigning on national issues such as the cost of living crisis and the partygate scandal.

Ms Nash, whose group claims to have more than 36,000 registered supporters, said: “The SNP’s cuts to council budgets have a direct impact on vital frontline services, such as schools, care homes, bin collections, and road maintenance.

“We don’t need any more SNP or Green councillors who spend time and resources on preparing for an unwanted and divisive second referendum, while our public services are suffering.

“If you want to prioritise your local services, then we urge you to use your votes to stop the nationalists.

“At these council elections, we encourage Scots to vote for all the pro-UK candidates on their ballot paper in their order of preference, and leave the boxes for the SNP and their nationalist friends blank.

“As part of the UK we can invest more in services delivered by councils, bringing communities and local people together – not pulling them apart.” 

SNP MSP Michelle Thomson said: "People in Scotland deserve elected councillors who will have a razor sharp focus on supporting them through the current Tory cost of living crisis – not another five years of council administrations with absentee and extremist councillors whose only qualification for the job is wanting to keep Westminster control of Scotland.

“Only by voting SNP on 5 May can people have councillors focused on protecting them from the worst excesses of a cost of living crisis made worse by Westminster’s excesses and games."

Alba leader Alex Salmond said: "The unionist parties are clearly ganging up to try use the result of this election to undermine the cause of Scottish independence, this is all the more reason to make sure Alba Councillors are elected to help form pro independence administrations across Scotland. 

"In the election itself our message could not be clearer. Vote 1 for your ALBA candidate and use all remaining rankings for other Independence supporting candidates.

"That is the way to ensure that, as well as electing ALBA councillors, people are able to maximise the number of Independence supporting councillors across Scotland under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system.  

"An Independence majority, in as many councils as possible, could be of key importance in implementing an Independence referendum or other electoral test.

"It would be folly to leave the field open to unionists. Thus it is better for Independence supporters to work together."

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: “This is desperate, turgid stuff from Scotland in Union and an attempt to deliberately mislead voters.

"The election on May 5th will have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the new referendum bill being brought to the Scottish Parliament with Greens in government, and to see a former Labour MP urging people to vote Tory during the cost of living crisis and while the Prime Minister is being fined for partying during lockdown is pathetic.

“This election is about communities not the constitution, and the more Labour and the Tories join forces to obsess about independence the more they reveal they have nothing to offer them.

"Greens in government have secured record funding for recycling, active travel and nature restoration and the biggest investment in teacher recruitment in 15 years.”

The SNP have also been asked for comment.