LIZ Truss will look to rebrand Scottish independence as “separatism” in an effort to paint the movement in a negative light, reports say.

The Foreign Secretary, seen as the clear favourite to take over from Boris Johnson in No 10, will look to shift the narrative around the constitutional debate to benefit the Union.

It seems likely that Truss will take a more confrontational approach against “separatism” than the Tory government had done in the latter days of Johnson’s leadership.

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Under the advice of former intergovernmental relations minister Michael Gove, the Tories began quietly undermining devolution by passing funding directly to Scottish councils through schemes such as the Levelling-Up fund – which replaced EU funds the Edinburgh government had previously allocated.

This was thought to be more effective than the “muscular Unionism” employed during the earlier days of the Johnson government.

Truss is reportedly plotting to keep Gove away from any influential roles however, which could signal a return to a more aggressive approach, according to the report in the i.

Furthermore, one Truss ally was quoted as calling Sturgeon a “glorified council leader”.

However, there are said to be concerns among Scottish Conservatives that the negative framing of the pro-independence movement could backfire.

Asked about those reported concerns, SNP MP Philippa Whitford told The National: “It absolutely makes sense.”

She went on: “The more they make clear that they have no respect for how Scottish voters vote, they push people in the other direction.

“The other thing we need to highlight is the attack on devolution, the Internal Market Act, the taking control of funding that replace EU funds, the Levelling-Up Fund, the Shared Prosperity Fund, that’s cutting out our parliament so we’re not getting to set the overarching strategy.

“They say don’t interrupt your opposition when they’re making a mistake, but it is very bizarre if you are anti-independence that you attack the ‘middle way’ of devolution.

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“They are the ones that are going to force people in Scotland to either accept a return to direct rule by a Tory government in Westminster or to push forward to independence.”

On the reports that Truss would attempt to rebrand the Yes movement as “separatists”, Whitford went on: “They focus on ‘separatism’, but actually it’s about self-determination and self-agency. They’re focusing on one end of the spectrum to try to make it sound as negative as possible, but the opposite of independence is dependence.

“Powers over welfare, over VAT, energy, it’s simply about us having the powers to enact the policies that people in Scotland want.”