FOREIGN Secretary Liz Truss’s labelling of Nicola Sturgeon as someone who it is “best to ignore” was not a slip but an “overt symbol” of how Scotland is treated at Westminster , an MP has said.

Dr Philippa Whitford told the Sunday National that contempt for Scotland’s elected politicians had been “very distinctive of the Boris Johnson parliament, and Truss is clearly the continuity candidate”.

Both Truss and her competitor in the race to enter No 10 – former chancellor Rishi Sunak – have been explicit in ruling out a second independence referendum.

However, the Foreign Secretary’s comments about Sturgeon, which she later partially rowed back on, suggested a wider dismissive attitude towards Scottish voters.

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Whitford said: “This kind of contempt for our First Minister, elected by the voters of Scotland, shows what’s going on. Any talk about respect or partnership or ‘don’t go for independence we’ll give you more powers’, that’s all an absolute crock.

“We are going the other way. They think devolution was a mistake and they will unwind as much of it as they can. All [Truss] has done – almost stupidly – is be so overt about it.”

The Central Ayrshire MP said the comment about “ignoring” Sturgeon had been a “very overt symbol of something that has actually been going on now to some extent since the Brexit vote, or even since 2014, but it has accelerated”.

Whitford highlighted issues such as transmissions charges – which see Scottish energy firms having to pay up to 15 times more than their English or Welsh counterparts to connect to the grid – and areas in which Scottish voices had been ignored in London.

She drew particular attention to the post-Brexit Internal Market Act, which gave the UK Government wide-ranging powers to spend directly in devolved areas and – as Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson put it – “automatically disapply Scottish legislation”.

“I don’t think we’ve made people in Scotland understand just how much the act reverses devolution,” Whitford said.

Scotland’s NHS, the food and drink on Scotland’s shelves and attempts to ban single-use plastics are all devolved issues – but the Internal Market Act means the Scottish Government does not have complete control over them.

WHITFORD went on: “What we must try to do is get the soft No voting public in Scotland to realise that they may have been happy with devolution, but devolution is under threat.

“Eventually the people of Scotland, in my mind, face a decision of either accepting a return to direct rule or going forward to independence.”

However, Edinburgh University’s Professor Nicola McEwen, a co-director at the Centre on Constitutional Change, said it was too early to tell what the long-term implications of the Internal Market Act would be.

She said it had “the potential to limit the reach” of laws brought in by the devolved administrations, but that it was the Tories’ handling of the act that had led to low levels of trust between the UK’s governments.

“It was very much a top-down approach from the UK Government,” she said. “Quite how much reach [the act] has will depend on the willingness of the governments to co-operate, collaborate and come to agreements about where they can have different approaches.”

Scotland’s single-use plastic legislation has, by agreement, been made exempt from the conflicting principles of the Internal Market Act. However, it is unclear how much co-operation could emerge in future.

MCEWEN stressed that Truss’s “ignore” comments had been made during a campaign where the only targets were Tory party members, and that the context of real government might lead to very different outcomes.

However, in a research paper released in late July by FullFact and UK In A Changing Europe – for which McEwen is a senior research fellow – the professor wrote that it is “not unusual for officials from devolved governments to describe relations with the UK Government as the worst they have ever been”.

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In that paper, she also noted: “During Brexit negotiations, both the Scottish and Welsh governments consistently advocated for as close a relationship with the EU as possible, including membership of the single market. Just as consistently, both were largely ignored.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “This year we have agreed new ways of working with the devolved governments which placed the existing principles of maintaining positive relations, mutual respect and building trust at its heart.

“The Scottish Parliament is one of the most powerful devolved governments in the world, with additional powers being provided in 2016 over welfare, tax and borrowing.

“So far this year there have been more than 160 meetings with the UK Government and devolved ministers to discuss key policies including cost of living and the war in Ukraine, making sure we deliver for people across the UK.”