ALISTER Jack has come under fire after insisting that Scotland must exit lockdown in “lockstep” with the rest of the UK.

In a column for the Scottish Daily Mail, the Tory minister claims the coronavirus response will be “much more effective” if the UK acts as one.

While the Scottish Secretary concedes that devolution allows Holyrood the option to diverge from Westminster, he says it does not mean “things are best done differently”.

Nicola Sturgeon has previously said she would differ from the four-nation approach to tackling the pandemic if she was advised doing so would benefit the Scottish population.

Responding to Jack’s column, the FM said she would take a different approach from the rest of the UK if she believed it was the most effective way to protect people from the virus.

His article read: “I believe when Scotland is ready to emerge from lockdown we should do so in lockstep with the UK as a whole. There are strong, practical reasons why this should happen.

“It is important, as Scotland's two governments make such onerous, difficult demands on people to stay at home and to stay away from family and friends, that we speak with the same voice.

“If we can present a simple, clear, united message, it will be much more effective. The more we feel we are in this together, the more we will pull together; to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon blasts back at Alister Jack over 'lockstep' claim​

The Scottish Secretary also insisted Scotland’s economy would benefit from a strict four-nation approach.

On constitutional arrangements, he added: “Devolution, rightly, gives the Scottish Government a key role in responding to the coronavirus outbreak. But the ability to do things differently, which is central to devolution, does not, and never has, meant that things are best done differently.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a national emergency and has created an unprecedented challenge for the whole of the UK. We should meet the challenge together.”

The column was endorsed by several Tory colleagues, including Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg, who praised “Alister ‘Union’ Jack”.

Jackson Carlaw also backed the Scottish Secretary, tweeting: “A simple, clear and united message from both of Scotland’s governments will be much more effective and save lives. The more we feel we are in this together, the more we will pull together.”

READ MORE: Alister 'Union' Jack left red-faced after breaking ministerial code

However, others interpreted Jack’s comments differently.

SNP MP Pete Wishart urged the Tories to consider the best interests of the people of Scotland.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown exposed a potentially major flaw in the minister’s proposals. He suggested that the four-nation approach could, in theory, see the rest of the UK forced to impose lockdown restrictions for longer than necessary if Scotland was to become more badly affected than other parts of the UK.

He tweeted: “So if I understand your argument: if advice in Scotland is that the R number is too high, and risk of further deaths from a second wave is too high; then r UK should stay in ‘lockstep’ with Scotland, regardless of any SAGE/other advice to U.K. Government?”

Former SNP head of communications Fergus Mutch branded Jack’s argument “stupid”, pointing out that the Scottish Government has overwhelming public support for its coronavirus response.

Political journalist Paul Hutcheon posted: “What Alister Jack is really saying is devolution should be put in furlough.”