First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at the Tories for “peddling fake news” amid reports the Scottish Government is “banning” the Union flag from its buildings.

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, said on Twitter: “The SNP government should be more concerned with raising standards, not lowering flags. Dismal stuff.”

Ms Sturgeon hit back: “Memo to PM’s new ‘fake news’ unit. The first line of defence against fake news is for your own politicians to stop peddling it.”

Ms Davidson then dealt another blow by sharing a tweet from the Scottish Conservatives’ director of communications, Eddie Barnes, which compares the Government’s guidance on flag-flying from 2018 and 2017.

“Make up your own mind,” he said.

The screengrabs he shared show 2018’s guidance state the Union flag will only be flown on Remembrance Day. No mention of this was made in 2017.

The First Minister has today strongly denied the Union flag would be removed from Government buildings on certain occasions.

Ms Sturgeon said the Lion Rampant flag, the Royal Banner of Scotland, has been flown from government buildings instead of the Union flag for royal birthdays and anniversaries since 2010.

The debacle came amid claims published guidance was changed for 2018 to only fly the Union flag on Remembrance Day.

READ MORE: Scottish produce is being labelled with the Union Flag - and people are not happy

The Scottish Government, however, said the published guidance has been updated by officials to reflect actual practice since 2010 and the Union flag will be flown on the same number of days in 2018 as previous years.

In a lengthy tirade on Twitter, Ms Sturgeon sought to set the record straight on “this ridiculous flag story.”

She said: “Since the truth doesn’t seem to matter very much to some, let me set out the facts.

READ MORE: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denies Union flag ban

“There are two essential elements to the story. One, that the Scottish Government has recently changed its practice on what flags to fly from government buildings on Royal occasions; and two, that I ordered such a change. Both are wrong.

“The Lion Rampant has been flown on Royal occasions - entirely appropriately. Since the Lion Rampant is the Royal Banner, it is not clear to me why anyone would object to that. However, the key point is that there has been no change to this since 2010.

Evening Times:
“Yes, the civil service recently decided to update the published guidance, but simply to ensure that it accurately reflected the long standing practice - the underlying policy has not changed. And why would it?

“As for the claim that I ordered a change, I have issued no instructions, orders, authorisations - or even expressed an opinion - about changing flag policy. The update of the guidance was an administrative step - albeit a sensible one - and not done at my request.

“Sadly, the truth will not matter to some in today’s media - and that’s part of a much bigger problem, I’m afraid. But I still believe (hope) it matters to most in the media - and certainly to the public.

“Now I’ll leave those who are motivated to do so to argue about flags. I’ll get back to matters health, education, the economy and protecting Scotland’s interests.”

Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser also lashed out at Ms Sturgeon, labelling her Twitter rant “Trump-style” and “a desperate attempt to spin her way out of trouble.”

He said: “The SNP is more interested in lowering Union Flags than raising standards in schools and hospitals.

“The First Minister’s Trump-style Twitter denial by candlelight last night does nothing to change the facts.

“The SNP issued a dictat on January 10 ordering Union Flags to be flown on one day and one day only.

“If Nicola Sturgeon is so insistent nothing will change then it’s quite straightforward – change the guidance back to what it was.

“This is classic nationalist behaviour, and nothing Nicola Sturgeon says can alter that.

“She always stresses her civic nationalism is nothing to do with flags and banners.

“The events of the last 24 hours prove otherwise.”