NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused by David Mundell of trying to “exploit Northern Ireland’s troubled history” in the row over Brexit as the SNP pushes for a second independence referendum.

The Scottish Secretary used a speech at the Scotland Office in Whitehall as part of the UK Government’s charm offensive to persuade Conservative colleagues to back Theresa May’s Brexit Plan.

Mr Mundell claimed there were really only two options before MPs: the PM’s deal and no-deal.

He said the UK-EU proposal offered certainty in the short term and success in the long term but warned that a rejection of it would lead to “chaos” and the strong likelihood of a “catastrophic no-deal departure from the EU”.

Much of the Secretary of State’s speech was directed at the SNP’s approach to Brexit and in particular Ms Sturgeon’s “craving” for a damaging no-deal.

The Nationalists are now swinging behind backing a People’s Vote as the “best option” should, as people expect, MPs vote down Mrs May’s Brexit Plan next Tuesday.

Mr Mundell highlighted the support from Scottish industry and business, including the Fishermen’s Federation and the Scottish Whisky Association as well as oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood and Sir Roger Carr of BAE Systems.

He urged the FM to “open her ears” and “hear what Scotland is actually saying,” stressing: “If she genuinely wants to represent Scotland’s views, she has to stop lecturing and start listening.”

The Secretary of State said the SNP leader’s approach had been clear ever since the EU referendum result in June 2016 when the following day she “grabbed at Brexit as a battering ram for another independence referendum” aided by Labour, whom he denounced as “Nicola’s little helpers”; both parties putting party interests before those of the country.

Describing himself as a “Unionist and a devolutionist,” the Scottish Secretary said the proposals for the Northern Irish backstop were “carefully tailored arrangements” that took account of the region’s special and unique circumstances; “that means avoiding a hard border with Ireland”.

Dismissing the SNP fear that “special treatment” for Northern Ireland would somehow give it a competitive advantage and should be extended to Scotland, Mr Mundell argued all he saw was a pragmatic solution to a difficult problem.

“To be frank, I’ve been dismayed by the SNP’s crass attempts to exploit Northern Ireland’s troubled history in their campaign for a second independence referendum. Scotland is not Northern Ireland," he declared.

“The fact Nicola Sturgeon is prepared to ignore Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances - their history, culture and geography - to score political points shows nothing is off-limits for her or her party.”

The Tory Cabinet minister also hit back at this week’s assertion by Ian Blackford, the Nationalist leader at Westminster, that the PM had “lied” over the backstop.

He added: "I don't think anybody has been misled; if there is any attempt at misleading it is from the SNP, who are somehow projecting they want some other, better alternative yet they're quite prepared to impose a no-deal on Scotland."