Boris Johnson has accused the SNP of pressing for another independence referendum regardless of the cost to Scotland and the whole of the UK.
In a pre-recorded speech to Tory activists, the prime minister said he found it “incredible” that the ruling party “would choose this moment to again push their campaign for separation”, just as the nation was emerging form the coronavirus pandemic.
In his virtual address to the Scottish Conservative spring conference, Mr Johnson also underlined the UK-wide “team effort” in tackling the COVID-19 crisis and said it showed “the great British spirit” lived on.
The widely-hailed vaccination rollout, which aims to see every adult receive their jab by the end of July, has “shown what UK can do” together, he said.
Mr Johnson made his comments ahead of May’s Holyrood election.
It came as an opinion poll found 45% of Scots did not want a second independence referendum in the next few years.
But the Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times found 25% supported holding a referendum in the next 12 months.
A total of 1,013 Scottish adults were polled online between 3 and 5 March.
The poll also found support for a Yes vote stood at 46%, with No on 47%.
Earlier this week, two other opinion polls suggested support for a No vote had pulled ahead of Yes.
Highlighting the response to the coronavirus emergency, Mr Johnson said: “There have been some differences of approach across the country.
“But on the delivery of PPE (personal protective equipment), on testing and now the vaccination programme, we pulled together and worked as one United Kingdom.
“This demonstrated, quite simply, the United Kingdom’s collective strength.”
He added: “Amid the tragedy, this pandemic has shown the kindness and perseverance of the British spirit and how much we can achieve when we all pull together.
“And it is that spirit and those values of pulling together and of getting on with the job that we will need to continue to show in the months and years ahead.”
Stressing the importance of the UK recovery, Mr Johnson argued it would “require the efforts and strengths of every part of the United Kingdom”.
He said: “I just find it incredible then that the SNP would choose this moment to again push their campaign for separation.
“The SNP can see – after the impact of coronavirus – that people want time to renew their lives and to rebuild relationships that have become stretched.
“They know that workers are concerned primarily about their jobs and businesses concerned for their future. How can the SNP say that a referendum is the priority to them?
“It is the last thing they need right now. It is clear, though, that the SNP are not listening.
“They are intent on pushing for a referendum, regardless of the cost to Scotland and the whole of the UK.”
Mr Johnson added: “We can build back better – but only if we all come together.”