NICOLA Sturgeon has dismissed plans by the UK Government to put more branding on its projects in Scotland as a way of holding the Union together.

The First Minister referred to comments by David Lidington, the de facto deputy Prime Minister, suggesting all four parts of the UK could go their separate ways under a no deal Brexit.

According to the Financial Times, he told ministers the independence movement in Scotland posed a “significant and urgent political challenge”, which would increase if the SNP secured a majority in the 2021 Holyrood elections.

To counter the independence advance, he suggested better branding on projects funded by the UK government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and bemoaned the fact that too often only the devolved administration’s logo was prominently displayed.

He also told his colleagues the Scottish Government’s multimillion-pound “Scotland is Now” marketing campaign was ostensibly aimed at tourists, migrant workers and investors, but was “in reality aimed at domestic audiences, promoting the idea of Scottish distinctiveness and, implicitly, independence”.

Referring to the report, the First Minister tweeted: “The fact that the UK Government’s response to rising support for independence is to consider a rebranding exercise only shows how limited their understanding or genuine interest really is.”

The two Tory leadership hopefuls Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have both stressed the possibility of a no deal Brexit if they fail to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement with the EU and find an alternative to the backstop arrangement to the border in Ireland. EU leaders have repeatedly insisted they will not remove the backstop.

Lidington also told the cabinet that recent surveys suggested people in England were becoming increasingly indifferent to the Union. A recent YouGov poll found 63% of the Tory party’s membership would be happy for Scotland to become independent if it meant the UK could leave the EU.

Lidington yesterday answered questions in the Commons on the Union insisting “every part of the United Kingdom gains from the membership of each other member nation of the United Kingdom”.

But he was pressed by the Labour MP for Chester Christian Matheson who suggested his answers did not get to the grips with the real issues. “These answers are a disgrace,” he said.

“While he is giving us these platitudes, both Tory leadership contenders are willing to sell the rest of the country down by prioritising a no-deal Brexit over the rest of the Union. Will the Minister now give us the assurance that he has previously given, that no deal will cause potentially fatal damage to the Union and that he will fight against it?”

Lidington responded: “I have been very clear in a number of public statements that I believe that a disorderly no-deal exit from the European Union would not only cause significant economic harm in all parts of this country, but place further strain on the Union. I believe it is in the interest of everybody in every party in this House and in every part of the UK that we deliver on the referendum result of 2016, but do so in an orderly fashion that protects jobs, investment and living standards.”