SCOTTISH secretary Alister Jack has claimed the Scottish Government has banned transport officials from participating in a Westminster-led review.

The Secretary of State for Scotland made the remarks during this morning's session of Scottish Questions in the House of Commons.

He was asked by Douglas Ross MP about the union connectivity review, announced this weekend by Westminster, which is looking at how to strengthen the connections by road, rail and sea, between all four nations of the UK.

However Mr Jack said Michael Matheson, Scottish Government transport minister had stopped officials from getting involved with the plans.

He told the Commons: " The Union connectivity review, which is being led by Sir Peter Hendy, who I met yesterday, is a really important initiative for Scotland and the whole United Kingdom, and it will create very exciting opportunities. However, I am concerned that Transport Scotland has been told by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, not to engage with the review."

"I urge Mr Matheson to think again and to ensure that his officials take part. It cannot be in Scotland’s interest for the SNP to play politics with an issue that is so important to our economic future."

He reiterated the claims a second time when asked about transport by Conservative MP Peter Gibson, wjho represents Darlington.

Mr Gibson said rail links between Scotland and Darlington "will be vital for the success of our internal market." and asked: "Will [Mr Jack] join me in welcoming the independent Union connectivity review, led by Sir Peter Hendy, which will look at how we can improve our transport infrastructure to bring our communities closer and level up access to jobs and opportunities?"

The Scottish Secretary said; " The Union connectivity review will explore ways to build back better. As I said, I met Sir Peter Hendy yesterday, and it is extremely disappointing—it is worth making this point again—that Transport Secretary Matheson has instructed his officials not to engage in the review, to the detriment of Scotland and her economy.

A spokesperson for Michael Matheson said:

“Jack’s comments might be taken a bit more seriously had one of his MSP colleagues basically used a committee session today to say jobs at Prestwick should basically be sacrificed.

“On the review, we are still waiting for a response to the concerns set out in our join letter with the devolved administrations sent last month.

“But this study is clearly part of the Tory government’s wider agenda to undermine the devolution settlement across a whole range of policy areas.

“The very fact that it has been organised with virtually no consultation with the devolved administrations – despite Transport having been a devolved matter since 1999 – speaks for itself.

“While we will seek to engage constructively with the UK Government, we will absolutely not sign up to anything which in any way undermines the devolution settlement. The ball is in the UK Government’s court to prove that this is not the case – but thus far we frankly have little confidence in this process.”

Meanwhile, Ian Murray, shadow Scottish secretary, asked Mr Jack about what progress was being made on the whisky tariffs imposed by the US, which are crippling the industry in Scotland.

He also asked how Mr Jack was trying to help Scottish workers "on the precipice" of losing their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On tariffs, Mr Jack responded: "It is unfair. It is harmful to both industry and consumers. However, in the trade talks that have opened up with the US, we have now got agreement to have a bilateral discussion—in other words, not using the EU negotiators anymore—with the US. The good news I can tell him is that we have moved to a new phase. The Secretary of State for International Trade this week is starting discussions to try to resolve this problem."

Mr Jack said that for workers, "sadly we know we cannot save every business."

He explained: "Retraining programmes and the kickstart scheme are being put in place, and we have reduced VAT for hospitality, leisure and tourism to 5%. To protect the Scottish economy, I encourage the Scottish Government to make the restrictions coming forward as local as possible.