THE Tory Defence Secretary has attacked Nicola Sturgeon's handling of the Scottish NHS, suggesting military assistance will only be given as a "last resort" once the pandemic is over.

Ben Wallace, who recently cut the size of the British Army, was appearing on Spectator TV where he talked about issues around his brief concerning the actions of Russia towards Ukraine, Iran's nuclear programme and Taiwan's position with China.

The Defence Secretary was being interviewed by the chairman of The Spectator Andrew Neil, who used his final question to ask about the use of the military to help domestically and if this is a strategy of the UK Government, then why are they cutting its numbers.

Wallace announced late last month that 9000 posts within the British Army would be cut.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson inaction is making the 'best case for independence', says adviser

The military has been used across the UK to assist in the vaccine rollout along with recently helping with the disruption caused by Storm Arwen.

Wallace accepted there will be "lessons to reflect" from the pandemic but said the use of the Armed Forces was "always the last resort".

He highlighted when ambulance and firefighters went on strike that after "a long period of time", the Army would intervene to assist.

Neil interjected to suggest the Army stepped in "when the dustmen were on strike in Glasgow" to which Wallace laughed and said that was "quite a regular occurrence, I suspect".

The army was brought in to clear up rubbish during a strike over pay in 1975, but no such action has been taken recently.

Wallace then spoke about the Covid pandemic and warned governments not to rely on the military except as a "last resort" and called out Scotland's First Minister specifically.

"Covid is a one-off, every hundred years type pandemic and a proper national crisis and no one begrudges, least of all I, the use of our Armed Forces to assist the country in getting through that.

"As we exit Covid hopefully in 2022, my job will be to reassert that we are the last resort, not the first resort and if you are the Scottish First Minister with significant funding for your health service or your education service, or the Welsh First Minister, or indeed some of my colleagues in Whitehall, then, you know, it's not our job if you can't run your health service in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, it is our job to be there as the last resort wherever you are in the United Kingdom.

"Fundamentally when we're not in a national crisis or a pandemic, you know, we'll always be there to help, but fundamentally, we are there to do our defence tasks of protecting the nation."

​READ MORE: Why Scotland needs its own independent conservative party

In response to Wallace's comments on Scotland, a spokesperson for Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, said: "Ben Wallace should be embarrassed by his comments. The fact is the NHS in England has also called for military assistance in tackling the Covid crisis – so on that basis, he presumably thinks his own party ‘can’t run their health service’.

“NHS Scotland outperforms its counterparts in other UK nations on a range of measures – that’s the reality behind the Tory rhetoric and their disgraceful attempts to politicise the pandemic.”

The Tory minister has previously said that, while he is happy to oblige the use of military assistance in the pandemic, the Armed Forces will not be used to make up for "policy failings" in the future.

In response to this, a Scottish Government spokesperson said that military assistance is only ever requested "in extreme circumstances to support our NHS in a time of need".

Wallace recently deployed hundreds of military personnel across the UK to "accelerate" the Covid vaccine booster programme

The Army has also been used to support ambulance services across Britain as they have been put under pressure as Covid cases continue to cause hospitalisations.