Nicola Sturgeon to FACE off with Boris today as tensions soar over independence

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Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Alister Jack will urge Nicola Sturgeon’s party in Edinburgh to respect and honour the 2014 referendum to work with the Conservatives to “build back better”. But the SNP stressed another independence vote is the heart of their election campaign next year and branded Mr Jack’s comments as a “deluded misrepresentation of reality.”

The Scottish Secretary used a speech morning to stress UK ministers will “expect the SNP to honour its once-in-a-generation promise on the independence referendum”.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is expected to use a speech this afternoon to offer an olive branch to the SNP in a bid to soften relations between the two parties and governments.

But tensions still remain between Mr Johnson and Scottish party leader Douglas Ross after he angered Mr Ross after making comments claiming Scottish devolution had been a disaster.

Mr Ross’s frontbench colleague, Oliver Mundell, who served as rural economy and tourism spokesman for the party since Douglas Ross took over also resigned after the party whip on new travel measures.

He said he could not vote to support travel restrictions which he believes will impact the ability of his constituents in Dumfriesshire to cross the border.

Regulations which came into force on Friday make it an offence to travel outside Scotland, except for specific reasons including work, essential shopping and exercise.

Mr Jack, who addressed the Scottish Conservative Conference today, said: “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.”

Mr Jack hit out at the Scottish Government of putting the “nationalist interest ahead of the national interest”.

He stressed the “last thing” the country needs is another “divisive referendum”.

The Scottish Secretary also accused the Nationalist administration in Edinburgh of being “half-hearted in their support, or even openly hostile too often” in UK Government schemes.

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He referred to Nationalists threats to delay the Festival UK 2022 as an example, an event which will showcase the best of British culture, design and science to the rest of the world.

Mr Jack added: “Ridiculously, nationalist ministers in Edinburgh objected to any references to ‘the UK’ or ‘Britain’.”

He also claimed SNP ministers “continue to snub the Union Connectivity Review, claiming wrongly that it undermines devolution”.

The Scottish Secretary also took a strike at Nicola Sturgeon’s party position on Brexit positioning claiming if they got their “way they would simply hand back control to Brussels.”

He continued: “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.

“Sadly, it seems the SNP’s determination to start a row with Westminster outstrips their desire to support Scotland’s economy and Scottish jobs.

“They are also dragging their heels in backing our freeports plan, despite interest from a number of sites in Scotland.”

He concluded: “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.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross also stressed his party will “stand up” for communities which have been “left behind” by the SNP as he promises to give people a right to veto unwanted developments.

Mr Ross will also use his speech to the virtual conference on Saturday to stress the need for more powers to be handed down to communities across the country from the SNP led administration.

Responding, George Adam, SNP MSP for Paisley and one of the party’s leading spokespeople on independence, told this publication: “In a week when Boris Johnson once again made clear his burning contempt for devolution, Alister Jack has surpassed himself with this deluded misrepresentation of reality.

“On the issue of Brexit alone the Tories have wholly ignored the democratically expressed wishes of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and, unforgivably, the will of the Scottish people.

“The Scottish Government has consistently demonstrated its willingness to work with the UK Government when collaboration is to the benefit of this country but the Westminster Tories have time and again demonstrated they can’t be trusted to act in the best interests of Scotland.

“The Scottish Government’s ambitions can only be truly realised with the full range of powers that independence brings and the people of this country will have the chance to choose that better future.”

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