MICHAEL Gove has suggested the SNP privately want a no-deal Brexit to bolster support for a Yes vote.

The no-deal planning minister told MSPs the suspicion was fuelled by the refusal of SNP MPs to vote for any kind of deal in the Commons.

Mr Gove’s comment, made in a special recess session of Holyrood’s constitution committee, was branded “self-evidently ludicrous” by the SNP.

The Scottish Tories have long claimed that the Nationalists would prefer a chaotic Brexit to an orderly one in the hope that a public backlash boosts support for independence.

Speaking to MSPs via videolink about Brexit and devolution, Mr Gove was asked about the idea by Tory MSP Professor Adam Tomkins.

Mr Tomkins said Boris Johnson’s proposed deal included an orderly transition period, something SNP Brexit Secretary had called for.

He said: “Mr Russell also called for no hard border on the island of Ireland and this deal avoids it.

“Nicola Sturgeon called for a guarantee on EU citizens’ rights and this deal provides for it.

“Given that this deal provides for so many things that the SNP has rightly demanded, do you understand why the SNP continue to vote against it? Is it because they want a no-deal Brexit?”

Mr Gove said: “I certainly don’t want a no-deal outcome. The best means of avoiding a no-deal outcome is to vote for this deal.

“The failure of SNP MPs in the House of Commons to vote for this deal so far would allow a lot of people to draw the same conclusions as you have Professor Tomkins, yes.”

SNP MSP Tom Arthur asked Mr Gove if businesses in Northern Ireland would have better access the EU single market than Scottish businesses under Mr Johnson’s deal.

Mr Gove simply responded “yes”.

Asked if this would put Scottish firms at a “competitive disadvantage”, Mr Gove said: “It need not.

“If we secure the free trade agreement we are looking to secure, then it should be the case that there will be no quotas, no tariffs, no quantitative restriction, no extra friction and that would allow businesses in Scotland, Wales and England to access the EU market.”

Later, Mr Arthur said: “Michael Gove, incredibly, admitted that the proposed deal puts Scotland at a competitive disadvantage, as the only part of the UK getting a raw deal.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said Mr Gove had show a “breath-taking” level of contempt for Scotland’s interests and constitutional status.

He said: “Now that the request for an extension has been made, it’s clear that there is no reason to crash ahead on the timescale the UK Government has in mind.

“The extension should be secured to allow for proper scrutiny of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

“Amending that Bill to give the public the final say in a People’s Vote is the only way to truly take back control, cancel the crisis, and protect our place in Europe.”