CONSTITUTION Secretary Michael Russell has accused the UK Government of showing “total disregard” for Scotland and “contempt” for devolution in a blistering letter to Michael Gove.

Late last month, Gove sent a two-page missive to Russell pledging the Tory administration’s “commitment” to working with devolved governments after the Scottish cabinet secretary told The Sunday National that contact between the teams had become “sporadic and dysfunctional” and called for an urgent meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee over Brexit.

In his letter, Gove complained that UK Government ministers and officials had not “been invited to any operational readiness meetings of the Scottish Government” and that Westminster lacks access to “crucial data” on the number of environmental health officers working in Scotland, how Holyrood has spent Brexit readiness cash and “how you are ensuring businesses are aware and taking action to prepare for change”.

Now Russell has fired a strongly-worded response back to the Cabinet Office minister accusing Gove’s team of having “side-lined” the Scottish Government and refusing to let them in on the detailed negotiating mandate of the UK’s Brexit team.

READ MORE: Furlough cash for Scotland 'only available for duration of lockdown in England'

The letter, published today, sets out the Scottish Government’s position with just one month and 30 days to go until the end of the transition period. A final trade deal has yet to be struck.

Legal texts haven’t been shared, Russell says, and Westminster “expressly refused to tell devolved governments the extent to which the UK negotiating positions have or have not accommodated our concerns”.

It states: “In June the Scottish Government published a detailed paper setting out why it was essential to extend the Brexit transition period given the Covid pandemic and economic crisis.

“The UK Government ignored that evidence and instead has recklessly decided to end the transition period at great cost to Scotland and indeed the UK as a whole.

“This action I am afraid typifies the UK Government’s whole approach to Brexit: total disregard for the wishes and interests of the people of Scotland, contempt for devolution and a drive towards an ever more extreme and damaging Brexit which is going to end with either the worst possible outcome – no trade deal – or at best a ‘low deal’ which will cost jobs and hit the economy hard at the worst possible time.

“Despite the substantial economic damage your favoured deal will cause, the prospect of a No Deal should be completely unthinkable at this, of all times, and I urge you today to rule out such a devastating outcome.”

In a pointed salvo, he continued: “I fully understand why you would wish to assert that you have been working collaboratively with the devolved governments, but the facts show that the decisions on Brexit have been taken by the UK Government alone.

“This is a crisis entirely of the UK Government’s making and people in Scotland are well aware of where the responsibility for the consequences lie.”

Russell, who will retire from frontline politics at the forthcoming Scottish Parliament elections, has been Holyrood’s Brexit lead since summer 2018.

Gove, the most senior Scot in Johnson’s cabinet and the PM’s one-time leadership rival, became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in July 2019 and was additionally appointed Minister for the Cabinet Office seven months later, putting him in charge of that team’s policy and work.