LIZ Truss’s campaign has doubled down on its criticism of Nicola Sturgeon despite a furious backlash to her dismissal of the First Minister as an “attention seeker” best ignored.

The front-runner in the Tory leadership race made the comment in a party hustings in Exeter last night, adding it was “no, no, no” from her to a second independence referendum.

To loud applause, Ms Truss said: “I think the best thing to do with Nicola Sturgeon is ignore her…. She’s an attention seeker.”

The Scottish Labour peer Lord Foulkes praised Ms Truss for her “very shrewd assessment”.

Deputy FM John Swinney said the foreign secretary’s remarks were “obnoxious” and undermined Unionist claims that Scotland was at the heart of the United Kingdom.

However one of Ms Truss’s most prominent supporters today stepped up the personal attacks on Ms Sturgeon.

Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said she was “always moaning”.

He told Sky News: “When she’s waffling on endlessly about having a referendum and going to the Supreme Court and all of this, we need to be saying, Hold on you’re doing this because you’re failing to deliver for the people of Scotland, and the United Kingdom Government will have to deliver for the people of Scotland as well.”

He also accused Ms Sturgeon of wanting to keep Scotland in “permanent lockdown” as the UK Government supported the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think she’s very often wrong, she’s always moaning and we need to focus on how the Union benefits people,” he said.

Ms Sturgeon has demanded the power from Westminster to hold Indyref2 in 2023.

The UK Supreme Court is due to decide later this year whether Holyrood might be able to hold Indyref2 under its existing, devolved powers.

If, as expected, it says Holyrood cannot, and if the UK Government continues to refuse to lend referendum powers to Edinburgh, then Ms Sturgeon has said she would fight the next general election as a “de facto referendum” on the single question of independence.

The Scottish Greens, the SNP’s partners in the Scottish Government, have said they would do likewise and field candidates in all 59 Westminster constituencies to maximise votes.

Although Tory party members are only just receiving their ballot papers this week, Ms Truss is already considered the clear favourite to replace Boris Johnson in No10, with her rival, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, struggling to get traction with the Tory grassroots.

Mr Swinney said Ms Truss’s comments were “deeply troubling and concerning”.

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme today that people in Scotland, regardless of political opinion, would be “really concerned, and in many cases, insulted”.

He said: “Nicola Sturgeon has far more democratic legitimacy than Liz Truss is going to have if she becomes the prime minister, and I think Liz Truss has absolutely no right or foundation to make these remarks.”

He said Scotland had been "ridden roughshod over" by the attitudes of the Conservative party in recent years, citing the post-Brexit UK Internal Market Bill as an example of an "erosion" to democracy in Scotland.

He said: "When people are saying to us we would like our two governments to work more closely together, this comment from Liz Truss demonstrates what we are up against.

"I come across this frequently when I'm dealing with the UK government - a contempt for Scotland, a desire to belittle Scotland and not hear our voice.

"And if you don't believe me on this just listen to what Mark Drakeford, the Labour first minister of Wales, says - he says exactly the same thing about how Wales is treated."

However one of the Tory MSPs backing Ms Truss said people should “ignore the manufactured outrage” coming from the SNP.

Murdo Fraser told the BBC that the First Minister “does not speak for the Scottish majority” on independence or her demands for Indyref2.

“Let’s just remember that, according to polling, barely a third, if that, of the Scottish population support an independence referendum on the timescale being proposed by Nicola Sturgeon,” he said, adding that Ms Truss “is far more in tune with the majority of Scottish opinion” on the matter.

He said Ms Truss had had a “very strong campaign” and he had been “very impressed with her core messages”.

Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, said Ms Truss has shown “total disrespect” to the First Minister and “a contempt for everyone that voted for a pro-independence majority of MSPs in last year’s election”.

She said: “She knows that the democratic case for a referendum is unanswerable, so she would rather patronise us and ignore us.

“Neither Truss nor Sunak would offer the fresh start that we need. They have both backed every single disastrous policy that Johnson has implemented.

“They supported his failed Brexit deal and the Universal Credit cuts that plunged thousands of people into poverty.

“They are both happy to let the oil and gas companies rake in record profits while millions of people are suffering.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: "The people of Scotland deserved to be governed by grown-ups.

"Nicola Sturgeon will be secretly glad of these comments because it allows the SNP and the Conservatives to spend their time on a silly and undignified war of words, rather than focus on the difficult and complicated issues that both of their governments are failing to deal with.

"Neither of them has a plan for tackling the cost-of-living crisis, the climate emergency or the backlogs in the NHS.

"Scotland deserves two better governments. An election to remove them cannot come soon enough.”

SNP Deputy Westminster Leader Kirsten Oswald MP said: “The likely next Prime Minister has made crystal clear the partnership of equals Scotland was promised in 2014 was a sham.

“Firing cheap shots to grab headlines is straight out of the Trump playbook but reveals as never before the contempt Westminster has for the democratic choices people in Scotland make and the elected Scottish Government.

“We’ve already seen with Brexit that the Tories and Labour want to ignore Scotland’s government and the wishes of the Scottish people and exert even more control from Westminster.

“But Truss’s cack-handed comments are also a massive blunder on her part because they expose the ugly reality of Tory attitudes to Scotland and will only strengthen support for independence.

“Because it is only with the full powers of independence can Scotland escape Westminster control and Tory governments people here don’t vote for, deliver a better future and build a genuine partnership with our friends in the rest of the UK.”

Alba party chair Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh added: “Now Scotland knows exactly where we stand with the incoming Prime Minister.

"The Truss ‘Declaration of Exeter’ shows she will treat Scotland with contempt and also demonstrates that she is not bright enough to conceal the fact."