DOWNING Street has refused to rule out using Scottish islands for processing asylum seekers.

It comes after it was revealed that Priti Patel is considering "offshoring" asylum applications in an effort to prevent people making dangerous channel crossings.

It was suggested that Ascension Island, 4000 miles from the UK in the mid-Atlantic, was considered as an option and was assessed by the Home Office.

It is understood the department scoped out the practicalities of transferring migrants to the island before ruling it out.

However when asked about the plans today, a Downing Street spokesman refused to rule out locations closer to home, including Scottish islands.

He said: "But what we are looking to do is ensuring that we provide protection for those who need it. We do need to prevent abuse of the system, whereby gangs are charging people significant amounts of money to try to get to the United Kingdom.

"I think it is important that people are deterred from making life-threatening journeys, and that they claim asylum in the first safe country which they reach."

Asked if the UK was considering an Australian-style system where asylum seekers do not reach the country at all before their claims are processed, he said: "As part of the work that we are conducting on preventing abuse and criminality, we have been looking at what a whole host of other countries do, in order to inform a plan for the United Kingdom."

The spokesman was then asked if the government could use "a Scottish Island or somewhere in the channel" instead of a remote British overseas territory.

He did not rule out the prospect, instead saying there was "nothing more to add" at this stage of the preparations.

The revelations of offshore asylum processing has been met with staunch criticism this morning, with Sir Keir Starmer saying it was "inhumane" and a UN official branding it "inappropriate".

David Linden, SNP MP, has been part of the group of politicians fighting for support for asylum seekers in Glasgow.

He said the plans to ship asylum seekers elsewhere to have their claims processed was "breathtaking".

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Linden said: "Even by the British Government’s standards, this is utterly breathtaking and infuriating in equal measure.

“UK Ministers need to radically change the prism through which they view and treat asylum seekers and refugees.

" Time and time again we see asylum policy and Government messaging stray into blatant dog whistle politics which fan the flames of division and isolation."

He urged the government to stop using vulnerable asylum seekers as political weapons, adding: "Ultimately this poor treatment of asylum seekers impacts of some of my most vulnerable constituents who came to these islands to seek refuge but all too often end up being used as a political football by an uncaring, right-wing Tory Government people in Scotland didn’t vote for.

"The sooner Scotland takes control over immigration policy, the better in my view. Because Westminster isn’t working.”

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.