DOWNING Street is to embark on a “charm offensive” in a bid to win over Scotland’s civic society as they try to stem rising support for independence.

News of the love-bombing came after a poll suggested support for the Union was at its lowest ever recorded level.

The survey for STV by Ipsos Mori found that, when undecided voters were excluded, Yes is now at 58% while No is on just 42%, 13 points down since the 2014 referendum.

According to a report in the Times, Number 10 is planning to cultivate closer ties with Scottish art and culture organisations in an attempt to “increase its visibility”.

“These polls have been a long time coming because the SNP has effectively squeezed us out of Scotland,” a source told the paper.

The Times says that Whitehall has generally responded to increasing support for independence by transferring more powers to Holyrood rather than engaging with Scottish society.

But the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund – which was created after MPs backed the Internal Market Bill – will give ministers in London powers to spend huge sums of money in devolved areas, including “cultural and sporting activities, projects and events”.

And it seems the Tories are keen to do just that. The UK Government’s union policy implementation committee, which is chaired by Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, and includes Rishi Sunak, meets every two weeks to discuss policy ideas.

The SNP’s Pete Wishart said it was likely too late for the plan to work for the UK Government.

He told The National: “The idea of the Tories attempting some sort of ‘charm offensive’ on Scotland’s charities and arts and cultural community will be met with incredulity and an indifferent shrug of the shoulders by all involved in these sectors.

“These Tory charmless wonders have savaged Scotland’s cultural sector and have left charities working overtime compensating for Tory policies. Their total indifference to civic Scotland will not be made up by Tories offering a rebranding exercise and an assurance about their failing Union.

“With independence becoming the settled will of the Scottish people, the Tories know that their approach of ‘aggressive Unionism’ of saying no to Scotland and attacking our Parliament is failing them. But it will take a lot more than a half hearted engagement initiative and rebranding to address the damage they have done.”

It’s not the first time the Tories have talked about embarking on a Scottish charm offensive.

Before the pandemic, senior sources were telling newspapers that after delivering Brexit, safeguarding the UK is the Prime Minister’s number one priority.

Shortly after last December’s election, a Tory source told the Mail on Sunday: “We need to make sure there’s a proper plan in place to safeguard the Union.

“The Minister for the Union title is not just a symbol, it’s much more than that. It’s about being practical and making the relationship work better. It’s making sure Whitehall is that much more switched on, making sure the relationship between the UK Government and devolved administrations is better managed.”

When asked about this at the time, Nicola Sturgeon said: “If I had a pound for every time I heard the Tories were coming on a charm offensive, I would have been able to retire a long time before that.

“People judge the Tories on what they do – and what they do in Scotland is punish the poorest, starve our public services of investment, threaten to rip us out of the EU against our will.

“It’s going to take a lot of charm to overcome that reality – and I’m not sure Boris Johnson has enough of it.”

The First Minister’s popularity appears to be instrumental in the surge in support for both the SNP and independence. According to the Ipsos Mori poll, 72% of Scots said they were satisfied with her performance. Just 24% were dissatisfied.

Crucially, 55% of 2014’s No voters were satisfied with her position, while just 33% were satisfied with how Johnson was handling his responsibilities.

63% of those asked said they felt that UK Government could not be trusted to act in Scotland’s interest.