THE UK Education Secretary Michael Gove waded into the battle over independence yesterday, telling the English to lay off the Scots.

In a strongly-worded speech, he warned of the "threat" that English nationalism poses to the future of the United Kingdom.

Those who grumble about public spending in Scotland or Scottish MPs voting on English issues had to remember the "bigger picture", he warned.

The Conservative politician admitted part of his message was aimed at colleagues within his own party.

A recent opinion poll indicated Scottish independence was more popular in England than in Scotland, though support on both sides of the Border was around a third. Other surveys suggested growing support for nationalism across England, amid accusations Scots currently get a better deal.

Speaking to journalists at Westminster yesterday, Mr Gove – who grew up in Aberdeen – also declared David Cameron an "asset" to the pro-Union campaign.

And he backed the Prime Minister's offer of more powers for Scotland if it rejects independence.

But his strongest words were reserved for those in England who criticise Scotland.

All parts of the UK, including England, were stronger as a result of working together, he said.

While there is a threat posed by Scottish separatism, he added, "there is also a threat, under-appreciated, from English separatism as well."

Mr Gove said: "When some of my colleagues say we need to re-visit the West Lothian Question or we need to have a new settlement that is fairer to people in England, I say 'no, remember the bigger picture'.

"The country was Great Britain for a reason, because we stood together and stand together. If we turn inwards and against each other then I feel we will undermine something that is precious and our country will be a diminished presence in the future. That attempt to set one side against each other is profoundly unhelpful".

Mr Gove suggested some of the reaction to Scottish independence in England was petulant. He said: "There are some people on the right who say 'the Scots want to leave – let them'. That is the wrong attitude.

"These are not the words of someone who wants to keep a marriage together."

However, on the West Lothian Question he did say it was right that politicians should "constantly review" how the House of Commons works.

The UK Government was accused of insensitivity last month when it launched a commission on independence within weeks of declaring the Scottish Government's plans to hold a referendum illegal.

The commission could propose to strip Scottish MPs of voting rights in the House of Commons and create a system where only English MPs vote on England-only issues.

The West Lothian Question was coined by former Labour MP Tam Dalyell, the MP for the area. When devolution was proposed in the 1970s he pointed out he would be able to vote for policies that would affect Blackburn, Lancashire but not those affecting Blackburn, West Lothian.

Mr Gove, a former journalist, also warned the Leveson inquiry into ethics was having a "chilling effect" on press freedom.