THE UK Government has threatened to bypass Holyrood to consult Scottish councils on transport projects.

Scotland Office minister David Duguid bemoaned a “disappointing” level of engagement from the SNP administration and says his government will consider dealing directly with local authorities.

A Downing Street insider, meanwhile, claimed that Holyrood’s “wrongheaded” transport strategy risks “bringing Scotland to a grinding halt”, the Herald reported.

The Scottish Government, however, told Tory ministers to "respect" devolution as they warned of a Westminster "power grab".

Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson’s cabinets have long been at loggerheads over claims of a power grab, with Tory ministers eager to go over the heads of SNP chiefs to deliver infrastructure project in Scottish communities. Number 10 hopes the ploy will help strengthen the Union by demonstrating the influence of the UK Government.

The row seems to have been reignited after Duguid discussed a review of Westminster transport funding.

Speaking at a Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport forum event online, he was questioned about a soon to be published report on how the four nations of the UK could be better connected. Headed up by Network Rail chief Sir Peter Hendy, the findings will be released later this year.

Downing Street ministers have committed £20 million to developing plans for upgraded rail, road, sea and air links.

An interim report has identified the A75 – between Gretna to Cairnryan – as in need of improvements, as well as other projects in Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

Duguid claimed that Scottish ministers have been reluctant to use the funding, unlike counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland.

He said: “The lack of engagement from the Scottish Government on the union connectivity review thus far is disappointing.

“The people of Scotland and businesses across Scotland are set to miss out on the benefits of that £20m in funding, which could improve their day to day life – something for which we all should be striving for.

“Failing to engage when there is funding on the table risks leaving Scotland at a standstill.

“We stand ready to work with the Scottish Government and transport Scotland to consider the recommendations of the connectivity review.”

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LibDem MP Wendy Chamberlain, who chaired the event, asked if the UK Government would be willing to bypass Holyrood to contact Scottish councils directly – as has already happened with Westminster’s levelling up and shared prosperity funds.

Duguid said councils were now getting used to “new ways of working”.

Chamberlain asked: “Do you see a position from a transport infrastructure perspective where there is a lack of engagement from a devolved administration, you would look to do something like that, ie engage directly with Scottish councils?”

The Tory minister replied: “I think definitely there's an opportunity for that.

“We have seen, with the levelling up fund in particular, more direct engagement with local authorities.

“Not to pick out any particular local authority [but] I imagine they're all getting used to the new ways of doing things.”

A UK Government source told The Herald Holyrood ministers are “risking bringing Scotland to a grinding halt with a wrongheaded approach to hard cash to improve infrastructure”.

Such claims were dismissed by the Scottish Government, which said it had not been consulted on the transport review.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Graeme Dey commented: “Transport is devolved to Holyrood and the Tories should respect that, instead of engaging in a power grab which has seen them promise much but deliver little in reality.

“The so-called Union Connectivity Review was established without any discussion and consultation with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Scotland needs an infrastructure-led economic recovery to deliver new jobs and speed up the transition to net-zero – something the Tories are undermining with their cuts to our capital budget in the UK Spending Review for 2021-22.”