Scottish Secretary Alister Jack is demanding SNP ministers work with the UK Government to help the country “build back better” after coronavirus as he accused the Scottish Government of putting the “nationalist interest ahead of the national interest”.
With both Scotland and the UK dealing with a second wave of Covid-19 infections, Mr Jack said the “last thing” the country needs is another “divisive referendum”.
SNP leaders have already said that plans for giving Scots another say on the issue will be central in next year’s Holyrood election campaign.
Mr Jack, however, will be clear that UK ministers “expect the SNP to honour its once-in-a-generation promise on the independence referendum”.
He will speak out on the issue as he addresses the Scottish Conservative conference, which is taking place online on Saturday.
In his speech, Mr Jack will stress: “The last thing we need at this time is another divisive referendum.
“There are huge opportunities ahead of us. But to take full advantage of these we need the Scottish Government to match our ambition.
“It is time for all of us to work together and ensure we really do build back better.”
He will claim that “people in Scotland expect both their governments to work together on a successful future for us all” – citing regional city and growth deals as an example of what can be achieved when the two administrations work together.
The Scottish Secretary will say: “On other schemes, the Scottish Government has too often been half-hearted in their support, or even openly hostile.
“For example, the Scottish Government threatened to delay preparations for our exciting Festival UK 2022, an event that will showcase the best of British culture, design and science to the rest of the world.
“Ridiculously, nationalist ministers in Edinburgh objected to any references to ‘the UK’ or ‘Britain’.”
He will claim that SNP ministers “continue to snub the Union Connectivity Review, claiming wrongly that it undermines devolution”.
He will add: “They are also dragging their heels in backing our freeports plan, despite interest from a number of sites in Scotland.
“Most disgracefully of all, the Scottish Government has failed to support the UK Government’s position on ending the CFP (Common Fisheries Policy) and becoming an independent coastal state once again.
“Indeed, if they got their way they would simply hand back control to Brussels.
“Sadly, it seems the SNP’s determination to start a row with Westminster outstrips their desire to support Scotland’s economy and Scottish jobs.
“SNP ministers need to take the batteries out of the grievance machine, stop stirring conflict with the UK Government and seek to work with us instead.
“They will not be forgiven if they place their ideological obsession with separating from the United Kingdom above the huge effort we must all make to bounce back from the misery of Covid.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Freeports cannot and will not offset the damage caused by Brexit, which is taking Scotland and the UK out of the world’s biggest free trade area and single market.
“Now that the UK Government has shared its freeport proposals with us, we can explore how they align with our ambitions for a just transition to a low-carbon, wellbeing economy, and the results of our stakeholder survey will help inform this.
“The City Deals will bring growth and prosperity in regions across the country and we recognise how frustrating it has been for our partners as the UK Government continues to review the timescale for its investment.
“There are many areas where the UK Government has responsibility, and we continue to work closely to ensure both governments are doing all they can to protect jobs, retain vital skills and ensure a sustainable, green recovery from the pandemic and as we prepare for Glasgow to host Cop26.”