The First Minister tried to distance herself from the backlash only to be accused of trying to “duck away” from hard questions over her plan to break up Britain. Ms Sturgeon claimed not to have seen Emma Harper’s comments and insisted her party was “not in the business of borders”. But Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross insisted the SNP chief must explain the risk to jobs by erecting a barrier with the country’s biggest trading partner.
It came after Ms Harper, standing in the South Scotland region, and Galloway and West Dumfries constituency, claimed a boundary would boost employment.
Ms Harper, who was a Nationalist MSP in the last parliament, also said that “we can show that a border can work” if Scotland left the UK.
She claimed “there are issues that have been brought to my attention that show that jobs can be created if a border is created” when asked about the potential for a land border.
But she was accused of spouting “half-witted nonsense” over the comments in a car-crash ITV Borders interview on Thursday evening.
Ms Sturgeon is pushing to win an SNP majority in May’s Holyrood election, with her campaign centred on holding another separation poll.
However, her blueprint for a breakaway Scotland to join the EU would lead to a hard customs border with England.
Scotland’s trade with the rest of the UK is worth more than three times that with the EU and 565,000 Scottish jobs are directly linked to the UK’s internal market.
Mr Ross lambasted Ms Harper’s “bizarre” and “incredidble” remarks.
He said: “Nicola Sturgeon must either explain the SNP’s border plan to voters – or she can clarify that her candidate was talking utter nonsense.
“The SNP have to substantiate those claims from one of their current MSPs and a candidate in this election.”
The Tory leader said the comments had “shed a light” on Nationalist thinking and it was “completely false and fanciful” to suggest there were any benefits of a hard border.
Ridiculing Ms Sturgeon’s claims Mr Ross added: “I think she’s probably the only person within Scottish politics that hadn’t seen that clip.
“Again it shows that when it comes to more challenging questions Nicola Sturgeon tries to duck away from them rather than stand up and respond.”
Scottish Libe Demo campaign chairman Alistair Carmichael MP said that creating a hard border within the UK “is literally the foundational policy of the SNP” and that Ms Sturgeon was treating the Scottish public as “complete mugs” in her contradiction of Harper’s comments.
“No amount of tall tales from the first minister will change the reality that independence would throw up a hard border, dividing families and decimating trade with our partners to the south,” he said.
Asked about Mr Harper’s comments, the First Minister told ITV Border: “I haven’t seen her comments directly, but the SNP is not in the business of borders.
“The SNP is in the business of making sure Scotland can trade across the UK, across Europe and indeed across the world.
“It’s the Brexiteers that have ripped Scotland out of the EU against our will.
“As and when Scotland becomes independent, as I hope we will in the future, we will look to secure our place again in the world’s biggest single market and of course we will work with others across the UK to keep trade flowing easily between Scotland the rest of the UK, and vice versa.”