Scotland's Brexit secretary has written to the UK Government over fears it is backing out of environment protection commitments after leaving the EU which would leave it in a "race to the bottom".

The Prime Minister wrote to European Council president Donald Tusk last month to say the Government wanted to move away from so-called level playing field commitments.

Mike Russell MSP has now written to Michael Gove demanding to know why the Government wishes to move away from these alignment regulations. He is also seeking assurances that the Government will "respect" the devolution settlements.

Russell said: "A no-deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for jobs and living standards. But it is clear now that the type of deal the UK Government wants would open the door to the downgrading of environmental protections and employment rights which millions of people take for granted.

"The UK Government must not use the threat of no-deal to force through a disastrous hard Brexit deal. If Brexit happens we have said that when it is in Scotland's interests we will work with the UK and other devolved administrations on common policy frameworks.

"But we cannot allow any bid to impose GM crops or to weaken our world-leading action on protecting the environment. It's time for the Tories to come clean with people about their true intentions for regulations post-Brexit.

"We need absolute reassurance that there will be no attempt to fire the starting gun on a race to the bottom – a race in which there will be no winners."

In some devolved policy areas, the UK and devolved governments have been working to develop common frameworks for any Brexit.

This has been done on the understanding that the "level playing field" on standards would be maintained.

A UK government spokesman said: "We have been clear that the UK will maintain the highest standards of environmental protection and employment rights as we leave the EU. To suggest otherwise is simply scaremongering.

"We continue to work collaboratively with the devolved administrations to establish common frameworks, as these are vital to protecting the UK internal market."