Russian president Vladimir Putin (Photo: MIKHAIL METZEL via Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin would back Scotland becoming independent, the leader of the Scottish Labour party has suggested.
Anas Sarwar said the Russian president “would support anything which is damaging to his enemies”.
He also ruled out the prospect of Labour doing any deal with the SNP if they are in a position to form a government after the next general election.
The question of Scottish independence has re-emerged after Nicola Sturgeon last week unveiled her plan to hold another referendum on the issue next year.
If that fails, the first minister said she wants the next election to become a “de facto referendum” on whether Scotland should quit the UK.
Asked by HuffPost if the Russian president would welcome the break-up of the UK, Sarwar said: “It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?
“Vladimir Putin wants to damage our role and who he regards as his enemies in the world.
“He wants to damage the institutions that stand up to him, he wants to damage the institutions that help to keep global peace and justice, yes, in Ukraine, but also in the wider world.
“And I don’t think at a time when we have despotic leaders like Vladimir Putin we should be projecting an inward-looking UK, I think we should be projecting a united, diverse, changing, modern, reforming, outward-looking international community and I think Scotland should be part of that.
“I think he would support anything which is damaging to his enemies.”
The Conservatives are expected to highlight the prospect of a so-called “coalition of chaos” between Labour and the SNP at the next general election campaign.
That would be a repeat of David Cameron’s successful 2015 election campaign, which saw Labour virtually wiped out in Scotland and the Tories returned to office with an overall majority.
But addressing those accusations, Sarwar said: “Regardless of the outcome of the next UK general election, Labour will do no deal with the SNP - no deal, no pact, no behind-closed-doors agreement.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.