Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to focus solely on tackling a “resurgent” coronavirus after kicking off 2021 with a flurry of activity promoting Scottish separation.
The Scottish Tories and Labour urged the First Minister to “give it a rest” on independence, with Scotland recording its second highest daily Covid case total.
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, accused her rolling out “manufactured grievances” instead of working on a “proper plan to distribute the vaccine.”
Ms Sturgeon is pushing to win an SNP majority in May’s Holyrood election, with her campaign expected to centre on holding another separation referendum.
As the Brexit transition period formally ended at 11pm on Hogmanay, the First Minister tweeted that the EU should “keep a light on” for Scotland.
She said that Scotland will be “back soon” despite there being no indication of Boris Johnson dropping his opposition to another referendum, and Scotland not meeting key accession criteria for EU member states.
Ms Sturgeon attached a picture of the words “Europe” and “Scotland” attached by a love heart, which was previously projected onto the side of the EU Commission building in Brussels by activists.
The First Minister followed this up on New Year’s Day by retweeting a Scottish Government video with the message to the EU that “Scotland is right here with you.”
She then issued another tweet about the Republic of Ireland taking a seat on the UN Security Council and contrasted this with “not (yet) independent Scotland” being “taken out of the EU against our will.” She added: “Time to put ourselves in the driving seat of our own future, Scotland.”
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tories’ Holyrood leader, responded that “if UN Security Council membership is your measure, Scotland has had unbroken representation there for the past 75 years by virtue of the UK’s permanent membership.”
Ms Sturgeon also retweeted an article she wrote arguing that Brexit has changed Scots’ minds about independence and her plan “has never been about separatism.”
She claimed the rest of the UK would always be “our closest friends” despite the prospect of a hard border between a separate Scotland in the EU and the rest of the UK outside.
Praising the EU “family of nations”, she concluded: “We didn’t want to leave and we hope to join you again soon as an equal partner as we face the opportunities and challenges of the future together.”
A warm welcome to Ireland. However, if @UN Security Council membership is your measure, Scotland has had unbroken representation there for the past 75 years by virtue of the UK’s permanent membership… https://t.co/qXk3jgUFCA
— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonMSP) January 1, 2021
However, she stopped tweeting about independence after the latest daily Covid figures were published showing Scotland recorded another 2,539 Covid cases.
Mr Ross said: “The First Minister continues to roll out manufactured grievances and this tweet shows she can’t even stop on New Year’s Day.”
Annie Wells, a Scottish Tory MSP, said: “Give it a rest, First Minister. Now more than ever, you must focus on the day job.
“If this anything to go by, the SNP seem more keen than ever to divide Scotland. This is the last thing we need as we fight back against a resurgent Covid.”
Monica Lennon, a Labour MSP, tweeted: “First Minister, please focus on uniting the country in the fight against coronavirus.
“Disappointing to see Nicola Sturgeon begin the New Year prioritising #indyref2 – insensitive, divisive and definitely not the right time.”