MICHAEL Gove has indicated that the UK Government will put devolution at the heart of any future debate on Scottish independence – stressing that he will not be “distracted” by polls indicating a surge in support for dissolving the union.

Mr Gove was speaking on a visit to Alness in the Highlands – and would not be drawn into a “hypothetical question” over whether the UK Government would grant a second independence referendum if the SNP wins a majority at next year’s Holyrood election – as polls indicate the party will do.

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Gove said that “opinion polls come and go” and that “it’s important not to be distracted” by what trends are showing.

A recent Sunday Times poll found support for a Yes vote at 54 per cent, while polling expert, Sir John Curtice, said the average of the Panelbase polls over last six months, including the latest, put Yes on 51 per cent and No on 49 per cent – adding it was the first time in polling history that Yes had been ahead for such a long period.

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Mr Gove added: “I believe that it’s right to stress that devolution, in the context of the United Kingdom, works for Scotland, it gives Scots the best of both worlds.

“Certainly, my view is that we in the UK Government have a responsibility to work alongside the Scottish Government in order to deliver for Scottish people.”

The Minister for the Cabinet Office also dismissed the suggestion that his visit to Scotland, along with that of Boris Johnson last week, is in response to a surge in support for independence.

He said: “The Prime Minister being in Scotland, like the Prime Minister being in Wales, Northern Ireland, Cornwall or Yorkshire, is part of the job description.

“It’s my responsibility in the Cabinet Office to help to coordinate government policy and part of that is making sure that I work alongside the devolved administrations in order to make sure that the UK Government is there to help.”

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When asked what justification the UK Government would have to refuse a second independence referendum if the SNP secured a majority at May’s Holyrood election, Mr Gove said he was only focused on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “It’s a very good question but it’s also a hypothetical one.

“At the moment, I’m concentrating on doing my very best to help Scotland’s economy and Scottish citizens cope with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, build back stronger and my horizons at the moment don’t extend much beyond making sure that we can do the very best job helping the people of Scotland at the moment.”

Mr Gove showed his support for the strength of devolution being used as an argument against any future discussion about the union.

He said: “I don’t want a situation where we have a border and where because of the policies the SNP has outlined, Scotland having a different currency and you can’t use the pound Sterling in Stirling. I don’t think it would be a good idea for people who want to feel both Scottish and British, who want the best of both worlds, to be forced to choose.

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“I think what devolution allows is Scottish solutions to Scottish problems and UK support for every part of the country I think that an approach that respects Scotland's distinct identity and Scots’ own priorities within the framework of the union - I think that’s the best way forward.”

He added: “I have and I know others in government have always been very conscious about the importance of supporting people across the United Kingdom and making the case that we are stronger together.

“David Cameron at every stage was clear that it was important to support the United Kingdom and to respect the devolution settlement. When Theresa (May) was Prime Minister, I think everyone recognised that she was strong and instinctive supporter of the United Kingdom and the strengths that it brought and it’s certainly the case of Boris Johnson."