By Tom Gordon

NICOLA Sturgeon deliberately scuttled a potential deal with the UK Government over Brexit to foster grievance and create an “impression of disrespect”, David Mundell has claimed.

The former Scottish Secretary said the First Minister refused to reach an agreement on key Brexit legislation so that it came into force without Holyrood’s consent.

Mr Mundell said that, despite the SNP crying foul at the imposition of the EU Withdrawal Act in 2018, Ms Sturgeon has wanted that outcome all along for her own political ends.

The first time Westminster had changed devolved law without Holyrood’s consent since 1999, the Act was cited by the SNP as an example of the UK riding roughshod over Scotland in its arguments for independence.

Mr Mundell, who was Scottish Secretary from 2015 to 2019 makes the disputed claim in an interview for the Institute for Government which is published today.

The Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP also claims Whitehall was complacent after the No result in 2014, assuming the issue was settled.

The EU Withdrawal Act was the linchpin legislation behind Brexit.

As it altered Holyrood’s powers with post-Brexit ‘frameworks’, it triggered the Sewel Convention, which says Westminster will not “normally” pass laws in devolved areas without the Scottish Parliament’s express consent.

However the SNP Government rejected it as a power grab which would give Westminster power over 24 areas of devolved power for seven years, and steered its own EU continuity Bill through Holyrood in an attempt to pre-empt it.

The UK Government challenged the Holyrood bill at the UK Supreme Court, freezing it before it could receive royal assent and become law.

Although the justices ruled the Scottish law had largely been legal at the time MSPs passed it, the pause caused by the legal challenge gave the UK Government the time it needed to pass the EU Withdrawal Act, which rendered most of the Scottish law invalid.

Westminster passed the EU law despite MSPs voting 93 to 30 in May 2018 to withhold their consent, agreeing it was an intrusion into Holyrood’s realm.

However the Welsh Assembly give the same bill its consent, and Mr Mundell claimed the Scottish Government could have done likewise if Ms Sturgeon hadn’t preferred to play politics.

He said: “I think the Scottish government wanted the EU Withdrawal Act to be passed without consent. That was the outcome they wanted.

“There was a deal on the table, they didn’t accept that deal. The Welsh government accepted a deal, and the Scottish government took the deal back to the First Minister of Scotland and she rejected it.

“In my view, and I’m not pretending to be objective, that was a circumstance she wanted.

“She wanted to create an impression of disrespect of the Scottish government.

“I think it would have been perfectly possible to have reached agreement, and at the start I thought we would be able to reach agreement, but by the end of the process I did not think we’d be able to reach agreement.

“We were only able to get that legislation through because we got agreement in the House of Lords where there was a recognition that the stance taken by the Scottish government was an entirely political one. It wasn’t based on reason, having debated the minutiae of that for hours.”

Mr Mundell also said there was complacency in Whitehall after the 2014 referendum.

“There was an expectation that perhaps, certainly in the civil service ‘well, we’ve had that referendum and we’ll move on’, when in fact we didn’t move on and we haven’t moved on… It’s clear there will never be enough powers. Either you accept a devolved settlement, or you want independence. There isn’t some middle way on that”

As part of a series on former ministers, the Institute for Government also publishes an interview today with former Liberal Democrat Coalition minister Sir Norman Lamb.

In it, Sir Norman makes repeated criticism of former LibDem Scottish Secretary Sir Danny Alexander, calling him “hopeless” on some issues and suggesting the former Highlands MP went native when he later became Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

He said: “I think that Danny was hopeless on the health reforms, he passed it all and didn’t really understand the issues, in my view.”

He also said “it became clear that Danny’s contributions were unhelpful in many respects” at to the Treasury and was part of the Coalition’s top four decision-makers, known as the quad.

“Danny would tend to take the Treasury perspective or would have discussions with George [Osborne, then Tory Chancellor]. I think that we lost a Liberal influence in the Treasury.”

Responding to Mr Mundell’s claims about the Brexit legislation, SNP MSP George Adam said: “A Scottish Tory accusing anyone of disrespect is an absolute belter.

“Remember in 2014 when Mr Mundell’s party promised a No vote meant Scotland would not only stay inside the EU but would also be an equal partner in the UK?

“Real events - and not the fantasies of Mundell and his untrustworthy Tory chums ­- have shown not only did they fail to respect Scotland’s democratic choice but actively worked against it.”

He also said Mr Mundell’s boasting about the part the unelected Lords played in EU Bill showed how out of touch the Tories were with people in Scotland. The EU Withdrawal Act is a blatant power-grab by Westminster on Holyrood and it was rejected by every party in Holyrood apart from the Tories.”