WHITEHALL has insisted the Scotland Office is “more important than ever” as it hit back against a Commons committee report which said a devolution review should consider whether to scrap David Mundell’s role as Scottish Secretary.

In a boost to Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that Westminster launched a Brexit “power grab” on Holyrood, the influential Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee yesterdayTues published a damning report on how the UK Government treated the devolved settlement in general and its relations with the devolved administrations on Brexit in particular.

On the former, it said: “Whitehall still operates extensively on the basis of a structure and culture which take little account of the realities of devolution in the UK. This is inimical to the principles of devolution and good governance in the UK.”

On the latter, it said it was “highly regrettable” that there was little consultation with the devolved governments over the EU Withdrawal Bill as more liaison could have avoided much of the acrimony that was generated.

Referring to the Scottish Government’s charge that Theresa May’s flagship EU Withdrawal Bill was a “power-grab” on Holyrood, the report generally backed the First Minister’s contention, stressing it was important for the UK Government to recognise the reserved powers model of devolution meant “powers are devolved by default and not conferred by the UK Parliament”.

Furthermore, it suggested once Brexit happened, then those powers held by Brussels should transfer to Holyrood “without constraint”.

Yet there was a later qualification as the committee said it also acknowledged the “practical difficulties that arise from Brexit and the Government’s need to find practical solutions to address them”; this was a reference to the need for UKwide common frameworks on policies following EU withdrawal.

The report claimed devolution had “arguably qualified” the sovereignty of Westminster and called for a post-Brexit review, saying this should consider whether or not David Mundell’s post as Scottish Secretary was relevant and if the Scotland Office should also be abolished.

But a Whitehall insider took the committee to task, saying it had “misunderstood the situation at a fundamental level”.

He declared: “What the report really shows is the Scotland ‎Office is more important than ever.

“There was a huge amount of engagement between the UK Government and Scottish and Welsh Governments on the Bill both at ministerial level and at official level.

“Rather than do a deal to support the Bill like the Welsh Government did, Nicola Sturgeon preferred to pick a fight and campaign for a second independence referendum.”The senior source added: “Unlike the SNP, ‎the UK Government supports devolution and followed the spirit and the letter of the Sewel Convention throughout.‎”

But Lesley Laird, the shadow Scottish secretary, said the committee’s report simply confirmed for the UK Government devolution was an “afterthought” and what was needed was reform to “ensure devolved administrations do have a say and that there is far greater openness over what the UK Government says and does in relation to devolution”.

Elsewhere, the Law Society of Scotland called for the devolved administrations to have a clear role in the post-Brexit international trade negotiations.

It said there should be a “whole of government” approach to the UK’s future trade policy, particularly where international agreements would have an impact on devolved areas.