RYANAIR boss Michael O'Leary has waded into the Scottish independence debate by insisting Nicola Sturgeon would lose a second referendum.

Speaking as he announced a series of 15 new routes from Scotland, Mr O'Leary said the country was too economically weak to stand alone.

He said: “I don’t think there will be a second independence referendum north of the border and I think if [Nicola Sturgeon] holds a second one I think she knows she’ll lose it.

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"Scotland is not strong enough to stand on its own as an independent economy, not with oil at $50 a barrel.”

The colourful chief executive also warned that some of the new routes he had announced would be scrapped unless the Scottish Government cuts air tax.

Letters: Any second referendum must include option for a rerun vote

He said new routes from Glasgow and Edinburgh airports would boost growth by 20 per cent to more than five million passengers and were a “demonstration” of the airline’s faith in the government’s plans to reduce air passenger duty (APD).

HeraldScotland:

Ministers want to cut the levy by 50 per cent by the end of this Parliament before eventually abolishing it but face opposition from the Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Mr O’Leary warned that if the law is not passed, he will some move new routes elsewhere.

The new routes from Edinburgh fly to Baden, Budapest, Carcassonne, Eindhoven, Hamburg, Katowice, Nantes, Prague, Szczecin, Toulouse, Venice, Valencia and Wroclaw while the two additional Glasgow routes are to Krakow and Madrid.

Letters: Any second referendum must include option for a rerun vote

A Scottish Government spokesman said Brexit was the “biggest threat to Scotland’s jobs, prosperity and economy”.

He said: “Ryanair’s ongoing commitment to Scotland shows the confidence businesses rightly have in our growing economy.

“We are continuing to work hard to ensure Scotland remains an appealing and prosperous place to do business, despite the UK Government dragging its heels in guaranteeing any protection for companies in the face of an impending ‘hard Brexit’.

“We are committed to delivering a 50 per cent reduction in the overall burden of air departure tax by the end of this Parliament and abolishing the tax entirely when resources allow.

“This is a fundamental component to boosting Scotland’s international connectivity and helping to generate sustainable growth.”