Hundreds more teachers, nurses or police officers could be employed using the "slush fund" of taxpayers' money Nicola Sturgeon is still allocating for an independence referendum next year, Douglas Ross has said.
The Scottish Tory said the £20 million earmarked for a separation vote should be spent helping struggling public services following the Supreme Court ruling that Ms Sturgeon does not have the power to hold the referendum.
He said the money would fund more than 1,000 new nurses, 650 police constables or around 600 teachers for a year and it would be "inexcusable" to squirrel it away for a vote that is not happening.
Speaking as Scottish teachers embarked on their first national strike since the 1980s, he said the money could also be used to prevent more "crippling public sector" walkouts over the coming weeks.
His intervention came after Ms Sturgeon refused to reallocate her £20 million referendum fund in the wake of the Supreme Court's unanimous decision, saying she hoped the UK Government would perform an about-turn and allow a vote.
'They've always protected their referendum slush fund'
The First Minister also said that public funds and civil service time would be spent preparing a series of papers that together will form a new independence prospectus. Three had been published before this week's court result.
Mr Ross said: “With the unequivocal ruling, there will be no referendum next year. So there is absolutely no justification for them failing to reallocate every penny of their referendum fund.
“This is millions of pounds’ worth of funding that could support families and businesses through the global cost of living crisis or help our NHS through a winter storm."
He added: "We constantly hear ministers moaning about a lack of funds for Scotland’s public services, but they have always protected their referendum slush fund."
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the Scottish Government had committed just £16 to treating each long Covid sufferer in the current financial year compared to £90 per head in Wales and £107 in England.
He said: "The Scottish Government have suddenly found themselves with £20 million spare after their embarrassing Supreme Court defeat.
"That money should be used to deliver the comprehensive treatment and support that people with long Covid so desperately need."
Separate Scotland 'would take 30-60 years to prosper'
A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers would continue to make the case for independence and John Swinney would set out what will happen to the £20 million in next month's 2024/24 Scottish Budget.
Meanwhile an eminent academic warned it could take 30 to 60 years for a separate Scotland to reach a prosperous fiscal footing, with the intervening period marked by a decline in living standards and public services.
Prof John Bryson of Birmingham University, an expert in enterprise and economic geography, used the economic track record of a newly independent Ireland as a blueprint for how Scotland would fare should it ever vote to leave the UK.
Problems around the border with England will "take decades to solve", he said, while the prospectus offered in a new economy paper recently published by Ms Sturgeon was unachievable "this decade".