THE SNP have warned the Better Together band “is being tuned up” after it emerged a new five-step plan by Boris Johnson’s government to stop independence has been shared with former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown.

The new proposals were drawn up amid mounting concern in Downing Street about support for independence and increasing demands in Northern Ireland for a border poll.

They have come forward from a special Union committee, chaired by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, which has been set up in addition to a “Union Unit” at Number 10.

The committee met last week to discuss plans for a campaign to build the case for the Union, the Sunday Times reported, adding that Gove had compared plans with Brown – tasked with developing Labour’s plans on the constitution in its bid to stop independence.

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The paper also reported ardent Brexiteer and Vote Leave veteran Oliver Lewis is being lined up as the lead official on the new Pro-Union campaign.

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, seized on the new plans and the establishment of the committee.

“Not content with setting up a ‘Union Unit’ in the Cabinet Office to pump out Unionist propaganda like slurry the Tories are now setting up a committee at the heart of government to fight against Scotland’s right to choose independence,” he said.

“There is nothing the Tories at Westminster will do to stop the people of Scotland expressing their democratic will and now they are handing out taxpayers money to prominent Vote Leave campaigners – Vote Leave is now wagging the tail of the Unionist dog.”

He added: “Not only that, but the Better Together band is being tuned up again as Michael Gove reaches a desperate hand out to Gordon Brown.”

Part of the Tory team’s strategy, according to the Sunday Times, will seek to present a “warmer and more multicultural” image of the UK Government to Scots with London sources saying it would try to overturn the “woke left view” that the Union is somehow a residue of empire.

The paper reported on the details of the Union policy implementation committee’s five-step programme and listed its key plans:

- To fight the Scottish elections hard rather than offer up constitutional concessions in advance.

- Simultaneously to launch a campaign to persuade Scots of the benefits of the Union.

- To oppose a referendum and hope that causes the SNP to fight among themselves over tactics.

- To only later consider further devolution and only then as part of wider reforms throughout the UK.

- Finally, if there is a referendum one day to control the timing and terms of the vote.

One minister told the paper: “I don’t think there is any member of the Cabinet who doesn’t realise how important this is.”

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The report said the first step will be to properly contest the election. “We won’t be giving up without a fight,” a senior No 10 official said.

It added that efforts will be made to present a more positive and multicultural image of the Tory Government and to underline that two of the top four jobs in the hands of non-white ministers as more multicultural than France or Germany.

“The Union will be sold as forward-thinking on green issues and technology”, the paper reported.

It added: “More practically, London insiders said, the case will be made that the roll-out of the vaccine in Scotland, using members of the British armed forces and the UK Treasury’s support for jobs is evidence of valuable co-operation.”

In addition to Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the secretaries of state for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Union committee was attended by Ben Wallace, Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss, the Cabinet ministers responsible for defence, business and trade.