NICK Clegg offered Michael Moore the chance to resign as Scottish Secretary but the former Cabinet minister refused, insisting he would not be part of a "political charade".


The former Secretary of State ­admitted he was disappointed with his departure from the UK Government but stressed he retained a very good and close relationship with the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Moore declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding his exit from the frontline,but friends have given an insight into his sacking.

They said that, despite long-standing rumours that he could at some point be replaced by Alistair Carmichael, Mr Clegg's decision came out of the blue.

The Liberal Democrat leader's Friday evening phonecall informing his colleague of it sparked much dismay from Mr Moore, who believed he had been doing a first- rate job at the Scotland Office.

In what might have been meant as a conciliatory gesture, Mr Clegg offered his Cabinet colleague the chance to resign. But friends of Mr Moore made clear the Borders MP rebuffed the offer immediately, telling his party leader: "If you are going to sack me, sack me. I won't be part of a political charade."

The thinking was that a resignation would have put all of the media spotlight on Mr Moore and away from Mr Clegg.

The ex-Secretary of State, 48, who was not offered an alternative role, was also said to have been annoyed by the fact that in the reshuffle he was the only Cabinet Minister to lose his job, meaning that for much of the day the attention of the TV, radio and press fell on him and him alone.

The only official explanation given for the change of personnel at Dover House was that the referendum campaign was entering a different phase and that the LibDem leader wanted to draw on a different experience.

Since his appointment, Mr Carmichael has been keen to stress that he is not a one-dimensional bruiser although he admits to being capable of a robust approach.

Friends of Mr Moore accept that his recent TV performance against Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, when she cornered him on the Coalition's controversial "bedroom tax", might have been the factor that convinced Mr Clegg a change was needed.

A source close to the ex-Scottish Secretary said the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk accepted Mr Carmichael's strengths but believes that, as the campaign intensifies, there will be a need for a range of approaches to defeat the Nationalists in their bid for independence.

Officially, David Cameron had no direct input into the Scottish LibDem MP's sacking but friends of Mr Moore made clear that the Tories were happy with the switch as they were in favour of a more aggressive approach to the Yes campaign.

The close source stressed how the former Secretary of State does not feel betrayed by his leader after three years on the frontline but is deeply disappointed that he will not have the chance to finish the job in terms of his ministerial work on the referendum campaign.

However, Mr Moore is understood to have told Alistair Darling, the head of the No campaign, that he intends to continue to be deeply engaged in the battle for the United Kingdom and has also made clear to his political masters that he will, from time to time, speak out robustly on a number of key topical issues.