A UK Government minister has claimed that the collective response to the Covid-19 crisis has shown that the strength of the Union is “undeniable”.

The Scottish Government has been handed £6.5 billion of funding from Westminster through Barnett consequentials, based on spending in other parts of Britain.

The UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme has meant that firms unable to trade during the lockdown have furloughed thousands of jobs – but the Scottish Government has warned over mass redundencies when the support is withdrawn in October.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay, has claimed the support given to Scotland would not be possible without the Union.

Writing in the Scottish Mail on Sunday, Mr Barclay said: “If we hadn’t been able to draw upon the financial backing of the entire UK economy, it doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened to the people behind these businesses.

“The extra shops that would have been left empty, and the jobs that would have been lost.”

He added: “While, as with families, we might disagree at times, what we have achieved since March – protecting jobs and saving businesses – makes the strength of the union undeniable.”

READ MORE: UK Government rejects Kate Forbes' calls for more powers following £1.9bn of extra Covid funding

The minister claimed Holyrood was “one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world”, adding that “Scotland still benefits from being part of one of the most successful countries in the world, the UK”.

He added: “Instead of making arguments about powers and process, my colleagues and I are focused on delivery.”

Mr Barclay has been among a raft of UK ministers to visit north of the border in recent months, including the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Michael Gove - as the UK Government looks to cement the benefits of the Union in the eyes of a Scottish electorate appearing to be shifting towards independence.

Recent polls have put support for independence as high as 55 per cent this month, with voters in June and July returning 54 per cent support for leaving the UK.

During a visit to Edinburgh in July, Mr Barclay said that a further £1.9 billion in funding had been given to the Scottish Government to see out the year and fund initiatives to tackle the effects of Covid-19, in lieu of granting more fiscal flexibility for Scotland.

However, Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and other Scottish ministers have repeatedly pushed for the flexibility to borrow more and to be able to move capital underspend over to day-to-day revenue spending.

Ms Forbes has also stressed that Scotland would have been better equipped to respond to the crisis as an independent country.

She said: “If we are to meet the challenges of coronavirus, we also require additional fiscal flexibility and it is disappointing the UK Government failed to agree to this today. “The powers we and the other devolved governments seek are reasonable, straightforward and would not cost the UK Government a penny.”

Westminster has repeatedly rejected the idea.