Boris Johnson is a “wholehearted supporter of devolution”, Scottish secretary Alister Jack has insisted.
Despite the Prime Minister reportedly describing Scottish devolution as a “disaster”, Jack said the UK Government was “putting the Union at the heart of everything we do”.
The Scottish secretary said it was Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP which “opposes devolution”, as he made clear the UK Government expects them the party to honour the “promise” made in 2014 that the independence referendum would be a “once-in-a-generation” event.
Addressing the Scottish Conservative Party conference, which is taking place virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, Jack said: “Our Prime Minister is a wholehearted supporter of devolution, and the UK Government is putting the Union at the heart of everything we do.
“It is the SNP which opposes devolution.
“The past few years have shown that devolution does not work best when its powers are controlled by a party which actively opposes it.
“The SNP have spent the past 13 years trying to use the Scottish Parliament as a Trojan Horse for independence,” he claimed.
‘Our Prime Minister is a wholehearted supporter of devolution, and the UK Government is putting the Union at the heart of everything we do.’Alister Jack
“That is why I have made clear that we expect the SNP to honour its once-in-a-generation promise on the independence referendum.
“The last thing we need at this time is another divisive referendum.”
He insisted there would be “huge opportunities” for Scotland when the Brexit transition period finishes at the end of this year, when the full impact of leaving the European Union will be felt.
Jack insisted that “Scotland has a huge amount to gain in the new post-Brexit world”, claiming there would be new powers for Holyrood as a result.
He said new trade deals would “provide enormous opportunities for our exporters – particularly our farmers – by opening up new markets around the world.
And he said the post-transition environment would “finally give us back control of our own fishing waters” and “end the injustice of the Common Fisheries Policy, which has been so damaging to the Scottish fishing industry”.
Jack said: “There are huge opportunities ahead of us.
“But to take full advantage of these we need the Scottish Government to match our ambition.”
He also stressed the need for the governments in Edinburgh and London to work together to help the country “build back better” after Covid-19.
He said the UK Government had “bold and ambitious plans to boost our economy and create jobs for the future”, as he highlighted proposals for a network of freeports around the UK, describing them as “business-friendly zones that will help revive local economies and create jobs”.
UK ministers will also deliver an “ambitious” North Sea transition deal to help the oil and gas sector move to greener forms of energy, he added.
Jack said this would be delivered in the run-up to the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow in 2021.
Holding the environmental summit in the city is a “bold and confident statement about the importance of Scotland’s place in the UK”, he said.
He promised the event would be a “great opportunity to showcase the UK Government’s green credentials and to showcase one of the UK’s most vibrant cities”.
“I look forward to welcoming President Biden to Scotland for Cop26 following the PM’s invitation to him,” he added.