Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has accused SNP ministers of continually attempting to “undermine” devolution to “provoke unnecessary disagreement” between Scotland’s two governments.
The Scottish Secretary, who will stand down at next year’s general election, suggested that the UK Government will continue to bypass the Scottish Government by issuing funding on certain projects directly to local councils.
Speaking at the Conservative Conference in Manchester, Mr Jack told delegates that “the era of ‘devolve and forget’”, which amounted to “leaving too much in the hands of the devolved administration in Holyrood and allowing the role of the UK Government to fade into the background”, was “dead”.
He said: “On scores of projects, we are now working directly with local councils and other responsible delivery partners. I call that real devolution.
“No longer can the failing SNP-Green administration hoard decision-making power and resources at Holyrood, using it for their own political purposes, rather than the priorities of most people in Scotland.”
Mr Jack stressed that devolution “is about Scotland’s two governments, at Westminster and Holyrood, respecting each other’s roles and working together where we can”.
But he warned that “time and again”, SNP ministers “have sought to undermine the devolution settlement, in order to provoke unnecessary disagreement between the two governments”.
He said: “When they took Nicola Sturgeon’s Referendum Bill to the Supreme Court, they wasted taxpayers’ money confirming what everyone knew already: the constitution and the Union are matters reserved to Westminster.
“When they tried to introduce a new system of self-ID for trans people – their Gender Recognition Reform Bill – they ignored the harmful impact on safeguards for women and girls in existing reserved legislation.
“And when they tried to bring in a bottle Deposit Return Scheme they failed to consider the impact on cross-border trade.”
Mr Jack added: “In each case I felt it was my duty as Secretary of State for Scotland to step in.
“I will not stand by and allow nationalist ministers to undermine, or abuse, the devolution settlement for their own political ends. Not now, not ever.”
The Scottish Secretary took further aim at the SNP, labelled the party’s plans for independence as “pure fantasy”.
He added: “The SNP are increasingly looking like a busted flush.
“But that’s not the only reason why the United Kingdom is stronger than ever.
“The Union is stronger than ever, thanks to this Government – the most active and effective UK Government in Scotland in the devolution era.
“And I am very proud of that – because we have a great story to tell.
“We have delivered record funding for the Scottish Government, so they really have no excuses for their poor performance in areas such as health or education.”
Mr Jack also backed the Prime Minister’s plans to drill for more oil and gas in the North Sea, despite overwhelming evidence and warnings from climate experts on the impact it will have on global efforts to protect the environment.
He said: “I am pleased to say we are also supporting our globally successful oil and gas industry.
“This government is clear we should continue to use our own North Sea resources as we move to net zero, our own resources to bring down prices and improve our energy security.”
There is no evidence that home-grown oil and gas will bring down prices in a global market. Mr Jack added: “Both Labour and the SNP are threatening to shut down our oil and gas industry prematurely – sheer madness.
“It cannot be in Scotland’s or the UK’s best interests.
“We must support oil and gas, just as we support renewables, as we transition to a better future. “This government is going further than any previous government of the devolution era in delivering for Scotland.”