The Scotland Office minister yesterday said there is no case for giving Holyrood major new tax powers, putting him on a collision course with Labour colleagues north of the border.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald, David Cairns made it clear Labour had to "reclaim" devolution from Alex Salmond and an ascendant SNP.

Yet he brushed aside talk of substantial new powers for Holyrood as an inward-looking "McChattering classes" issue, saying Labour should be concentrating on how best to deliver core services and on creating a superior vision for Scotland's future to those of the Nationalists, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

His intervention will ruffle feathers north of the border, particularly those of Wendy Alexander, the party's beleaguered leader in Scotland, who is a driving force behind the Scottish Constitutional Commission, which brings together the three major unionist parties.

Launching the commission last year, Ms Alexander proposed significant new powers for Scotland to set levels of some taxes and to be assigned a share of other taxes set in London.

However, when it was suggested to Mr Cairns that he was not keen on giving more tax powers to the Scottish Parliament and that it was up to Holyrood to make the case, he replied: "Yes. The government's position is, is that we think the current fiscal arrangements benefit Scotland, that there are stable, transparent increases in public spending in Scotland. There is no case for the massive restructuring of that. In any case, the Scottish Parliament has powers to levy additional taxes if they think that's what they need and they haven't used them.

He added: "I want to reframe this argument. It has to be: who's got the better vision for what's in Scotland's long-term interests. The powers of the parliament will be part of that but it is what I call the McChattering classes (issue), it's the most inward-looking notion that it begins and ends with discussion about more powers. It begins and ends with what's in the interests of ordinary families in Scotland, struggling to make ends meet, living with the reality of antisocial behaviour, looking to get their kids a good education and a good job."

Only yesterday Ms Alexander was forced to play down splits between her and Labour at Westminster on the constitutional commission, saying Gordon Brown backed her plans.

A report in the Sunday Herald said Mr Brown wanted her proposed commission downgraded to the status of a review or working party, and for Westminster to take the lead in setting it up.

Ms Alexander said yesterday: "I was delighted to receive support from the Prime Minister this weekend for the commission.

"We do think that we need to look 10 years on at how the devolution settlement is working and I was very pleased to receive support from her Majesty's Government for that."

Often labelled a Blairite, Mr Cairns, the 41-year-old former Catholic priest, is regarded as one of the party's more influential voices.

He briefly touched on Ms Alexander's current problems - the Electoral Commission has just finished investigating an illegal donation to her leadership campaign - as "unhelpful" but believed she would emerge a stronger leader from them, having been "tested in fire" and having survived.

Mr Cairns repeatedly referred to how support for the SNP's core policy of independence was "going backwards" - claiming it now stood at 24% support - and said the First Minister and his colleagues were "sacrificing Scotland's long-term interests for their own short-term political advantage".

Yet it is clear Mr Cairns is deeply worried about how the SNP has seized the political initiative in Scotland.

He said: "Eleven years in, we need to refresh the notion of devolution because if most people, politic pundits or otherwise say devolution is something to do with Alex Salmond ... when devolution is supposed to be one of the core government principles of Labour (then) ... there is an argument for reclaiming devolution at the heart of what government does."

He dismissed the question of whether devolution is a process or an event as "the reddest red herring in Scottish politics" and a "proxy argument" between keeping Holyrood in its place and giving Scotland independence.

He said: "The Scottish people want the Scottish Parliament to have the powers they need to do the things they need to do and we have given them those powers. We continue to add to them.

"We get very little credit for that because the SNP want to present it as though somehow the Scottish Parliament fell out of a great blue sky, the Labour government had nothing to do with it and Labour has been secretly seething with resentment from the day it was set up. It's an absolute and total myth and we need to take that on." Last year, Labour's opponents seized on a speech by Mr Cairns in which he acknowledged Scotland would not "wither and die" as an independent nation.

Yesterday, the minister noted how too often Labour had allowed itself to be "caricatured as being a party that believes Scotland is feeble and has to cling to England before it can achieve anything".

He added: "To the extent that we have allowed that belief about ourselves to grow, then that's bad and we need to change that."