NICOLA Sturgeon has said both the remaining contenders for the Tory party leadership are “hypocrites” for changing their minds about referendums.

The First Minister said the race between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss was “dismal” and both candidates would be “terrible for Scotland” and rejected by its voters.

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland would face a “deep democratic deficit” whichever of the two became Prime Minister, as the public wouldn’t have voted for either of them.

Ms Truss, the Fioreign Secretary, and Mr Sunak, the former Chancellor, were selected by Tory MPs to go into a final ballot of Tory party members earlier this week.

Early polls show Ms Truss, who is promising £30billion of tax cuts if she enters No10, is the clear favourite among the 160,000 people who will choose the winner in September.

Speaking to the PA news agency in Parkhead in Glasgow today, the First Minister attacked the candidates over their past comments on referendums.

In 2017, Mr Sunak said it would be “hard” to block a second vote on Scottish independence, but that it should be pushed until after Brexit.

He told the Daily Express at the time: “It seems hard to block a (second) referendum but we should push the timing until after Brexit so the choice is clearer for people.

“A good deal will strengthen the case for the union.”

While in 1994, a 19-year-old Ms Truss, then a Liberal Democrat, told her former party’s conference that referendums were needed “on major constitutional issues”.

She said: “We Liberal Democrats believe in opportunity for all. We believe in fairness, common sense. We believe in referenda on major constitutional issues.

“We do not believe that people should be born to rule, or that they should put up and shut up about decisions that affect their everyday lives.”

However in recent days, both candidates have expressed their opposition to granting Ms Sturgeon’s request for a transfer of power to Holyrood to let it stage an independence vote.

Mr Sunak told the Spectator podcast this week that another referendum is “not the priority” for people in Scotland.

When asked if she would agree to a request for indyref2 under any circumstances, Ms Truss said this week: “No.

“The last referendum in 2014 was described as a once-in-a-generation referendum, we’re now in 2022 - that is not a generation ago.”

Despite the time since the pair’s original comments, the FM, who has tried to reverse the results of both the 2014 and 2016 Brexit referendums, said it showed they were “hypocrites”.

She said: “There’s been comments in the media from both of them in previous years in the last few days. Liz Truss talking about the importance of referenda in settling constitutional issues, Rishi Sunak a few years ago saying that there should be a referendum after Brexit – well we are after Brexit.

“They’re hypocrites – changing their position just to suit their narrow, party-political, democracy-denying agendas. 

“It’s not about the interests of Scotland, it’s about their own interests.”

The First Minister has said she wants the UK Government and Westminster to cooperate on her plan for Indyref2 in October 2023, as happened before the referendum of 2014.

The UK Supreme Court is due to rule in the autumn on whether Holyrood already has the power to stage Indyref2, and Ms Sturgeon has said that if it rules against the idea, she will make the next general election a “de facto referendum” on independence. 

Ms Sturgeon went on: “I hope the outcome of the Supreme Court case will be that the Scottish Parliament can legislate for an advisory referendum to give people the opportunity to have their say on independence.”