DOWNING St has insisted Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon will be working “hand in hand” to co-ordinate the easing of lockdowns across the border as it insisted the collaboration between the two governments was “most brilliantly” illustrated by the roll-out of vaccines in Scotland.

As the Prime Minister seeks his third head of the UK Government’s Union Directorate in as many weeks, Allegra Stratton, his Press Secretary, brushed aside suggestions that the new body, tasked with reversing the support for Scottish independence, was in disarray.

“Far from it,” she declared. “What you have seen over the last few months of the pandemic is the Westminster Government and the Scottish Government working very well together.

“You have seen, in where we find ourselves now, where roadmaps will be set out by the PM later and it will be hand in hand with Nicola Sturgeon’s plans.

“But going back further, you have the furlough and the support for Scottish businesses that the Westminster Government made sure was there. You had track and trace and the help in the Highlands and Islands and, most critically and most recently, the making sure by the Westminster Government that the number of vaccines were there to be distributed around Scotland.

“So, the relationship between Westminster’s government and Scotland and the Scottish people is working very well at the moment.”

Asked about what the PM was doing, given its staffing problems, to ensure the Union Directorate was running smoothly, Ms Stratton replied: “What matters is what is felt on the ground by the Scottish people and the Scottish people would say that they’ve seen support for their businesses, they’ve seen support whether they are self-employed or not and they’ve also, most brilliantly, seen the vaccines being rolled out around Scotland.”

Last week, Oliver Lewis, the head of the Union Directorate quit after being accused of suggesting to the media that Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, had been “side-lined” by the appointment of Lord Frost as the Cabinet’s minister for post-Brexit relations with the EU.

Mr Lewis, who served as Lord Frost’s deputy in the trade talks with Brussels, vehemently denied the claim and quit, reportedly suggesting that others within Downing St had made his job “untenable”.

It was claimed that his departure was all part of the clearing out of the Dominic Cummings’ faction within No 10; Mr Lewis was a fellow leading Vote Leave campaigner. Indeed, it was suggested that the allegation against him had been made by none other than Mr Johnson’s fiancé, Carrie Symmonds, who is known to have disliked Mr Cummings.

Mr Lewis lasted only two weeks in his role after Luke Graham, the former Scottish Conservative MP, who had led the Union Directorate for the best part of a year, was summarily sacked following the PM’s controversial trip to Scotland last month.

Asked if the PM had a Scottish problem given Downing St was now looking for its third head of the Union Directorate in as many weeks, Mr Johnson’s spokesman replied: “I would just stress that the Union Unit will continue to support the PM in his capacity as the Minister for the Union.

“The PM’s commitment to levelling up across all four countries of the United Kingdom stands and he will continue to prioritise that work.”

Asked if Mr Gove, who chairs the Government’s Union Policy Implementation Committee, was going to take charge of the Union Directorate, the spokesman replied: “We wouldn’t get into details of individual staffing matters. The Union Unit will continue to support the PM in his focus in levelling up across the UK.”

Asked how many staff, the Directorate had, he declined to say.

Sources suggested that another special adviser and close friend of Ms Symmonds, Henry Newman, who has worked at the Cabinet Office and has been recently brought into the No 10 operation, could take a key role in the Union Directorate working alongside Mr Gove.

It is thought that Mr Lewis had wanted to take a hawkish approach to the independence campaign but his departure could well mean that the doves, like Mr Gove, who want a more thoughtful approach, are now in the ascendancy.

It is expected that the report by Lord Dunlop, the former Scotland Office Minister, and also regarded as a dove, who is against a “muscular Unionist approach,” will be published in the next fortnight or so.

The report, which talks about stronger interworking with Edinburgh, has been sitting on the PM’s desk since December 2019. It could be released alongside another review on intergovernmental relations.