ALISTER Jack has said the era of “devolve and forget” is “dead” as he vowed to continue to work directly with local authorities and bypass Holyrood.

The Scottish Secretary told the Tory party conference that under his “watch” the Scottish Government will no longer be able to “hoard decision-making power” and resources.

He also claimed that the Scottish Government’s inability to get a deposit return scheme (DRS) off the ground meant that talk about gaining independence was “pure fantasy”.

Jack stopped the DRS from becoming a reality earlier this year after refusing to give an Internal Market Act (IMA) exemption to allow the scheme to include glass.

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The Scottish Secretary has also intervened on a number of Scottish policy areas including using a Section 35 order to stop gender reform legislation from becoming law.

And, on Sunday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that seven Scottish towns would be directly given funding, bypassing the Scottish Parliament once again.

The UK Government has been repeatedly criticised for using “levelling up” schemes as a guise to fund projects in devolved areas.

The latest move was decried as blatant “pre-election bribery” and “insulting” to Scottish voters.

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And, Jack insisted during his speech to the Tory party conference in Manchester on Sunday that he was “delighted” to see seven towns named in the funding round, out of 55 overall, the majority of which are in England.

“It is the latest in a long line of Levelling-Up initiatives reaching every corner of the country,” he said.

He also claimed the Union is “stronger than ever” thanks to the Tories as the Government has been the “most active and effective” since the advent of devolution in Scotland.

The Scottish Secretary claimed investment from the Tories is now worth £2.5 billion, “over and above” the Scottish Government’s funding settlement, which he said was at record levels. The SNP have previously disputed this, citing the impact of inflation on public sector finances.

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Jack also pointed to the freeports jointly agreed by the UK and Scottish Governments and investment zones as positive influences of the Tories in Scotland.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we recognised some time ago we had to change the damaging old philosophy of ‘devolve and forget’ – leaving too much in the hands of the devolved administration in Holyrood and allowing the role of the UK Government to fade into the background,” he said.

“Well, today I can announce the era of ‘devolve and forget’ is over.

“It is dead. Finished.

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“And I can promise you it is not coming back under my watch.

“On scores of projects, we are now working directly with local councils and other responsible delivery partners.”

Jack said he would describe that as “real devolution”, adding: “No longer can the failing SNP-Green administration hoard decision-making power and resources at Holyrood, using it for their own political purposes, rather than the priorities of most people in Scotland.

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“My view of devolution is straightforward. “It is about Scotland’s two governments, at Westminster and Holyrood, respecting each other’s roles and working together where we can.

“We know that is how devolution works best and we know it is what the vast majority of Scots want and expect.”

Earlier, Jack told the conference: "The SNP and their Green coalition masters are dragging Scotland down and more and more people have come to the obvious conclusion - if the Nationalists can’t even organise a bottle Deposit Return Scheme properly, all their talk of removing Scotland from the United Kingdom is pure fantasy."

We told how Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross told a fringe event at the conference that Humza Yousaf’s independence strategy is “rash and irresponsible”.