Alister Jack says Scottish Government ministers 'sought conflict with Westminster' to further Scottish independence
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has urged the next first minister to work with the UK Government – saying Holyrood ministers have "sought conflict with Westminster" to further independence aims.
On the day before the SNP's next leader – and the likely new FM – is announced, Jack said the winner of that race "faces a fundamental choice which will define their time as first minister".
He said: "After eight years of Nicola Sturgeon's leadership, whoever wins has the chance to seize an opportunity to do things differently, to reset and to make devolution work better for the people we serve.
"Too often in the past Holyrood ministers have sought conflict with Westminster simply to further their goal of separation. That has sapped the energy, focus and resolve which should have been directed to improving education, tackling drugs deaths and ensuring people have the reliable transport links they need.
"But despite that, there are strong foundations on which to build. We can turn from confrontation to collaboration."
Either Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes or Ash Regan will tomorrow be named the SNP members' choice to lead the party. The winner will then seek the backing of the Scottish Parliament to become the next first minister.
Jack – who this year sparked a constitutional row by employing a never-used clause of the Scotland Act to block the Gender Recognition Reform Bill from passing into law – said the pan-UK programme of city and region growth deals is evidence of his government's willingness to collaborate.
And he said the green freeports planned for the Firth of Forth and Cromarty Firth are further proof that "we can achieve much more by working together than by pulling apart".
He stated: "There are many other areas where we can and must work meaningfully together –including on transport, energy and recycling – and the list goes on.
"As I said, the choice the new first minister makes will define them. My advice to them is this –put the people of Scotland first."
The Scottish Government and SNP were contacted for comment.