Michael Gove has insisted that “nationalism is in retreat in Scotland” as he pledged his party will take the fight to Labour at the next general election.

The Aberdeen native and UK Levelling Up Secretary told delegates at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester that the Tories will use their record in government to retain power at next year’s election.

Mr Gove, who again angered SNP ministers on Sunday after announcing £140m of UK Government funding for seven Scottish communities without consulting Holyrood, suggested that the campaign for independence north of the Border has been put on the back foot.

Speaking on the main stage at the conference, Mr Gove said that under a Conservative government, “the Union has been strengthened”, adding that “nationalism is in retreat in Scotland”.

Read more: Douglas Ross has had secret talks with SNP rebels to end Greens deal

Humza Yousaf's plans for independence are on life-support after the Scottish Government lost a High Court bid to allow Holyrood to hold its own legal independence referendum.

Instead, Mr Yousaf has indicated that if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats at next year's election, he will begin independence negotiations with the UK Government.

Neither a Labour or Conservative government in Downing Street will accept a de-facto referendum as a mandate for Scottish independence.

Mr Gove added that his party’s track-record in Downing Street hands the Tories “a record that will give us victory” at the next general election, despite lagging way behind Labour in the polls.

Dedicating a large chunk of his speech to Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Gove stressed that “we will take the fight to the Labour party”.

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He branded the Labour leader “the jellyfish of British politics”, adding that he is “transparent, spineless and swept along by the tide”.

Mr Gove accused Labour under Sir Keir as “never prepared to stand up for our nation”, pointing to his changing stance on Brexit and wobbly position over a host of key policy areas.

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The Levelling Up Secretary accused Labour of holding “low ambition”, claiming at the general election next year, the Tories will “fight, fight and fight again for the country we love”.

Pointing to his brief in government, Mr Gove insisted that under the Conservatives, “no community is left behind”.

He added: “Conservatives in government have never been more necessary than now.

“We will fight at the next election for a kingdom more united, more confident and more ambitious.”

SNP’s Scotland spokesperson, Tommy Sheppard, said: "The Tories are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think people in Scotland are crying out for more Westminster control - at a time when Brexit and the Tory cost of living crisis are hammering household incomes and costing Scotland's economy billions of pounds in long-term damage.

"It's increasingly clear independence is the only way for Scotland to escape the damage of Brexit and build a wealthier and fairer future. 

"Neither the Tories or the Labour Party are offering people in Scotland any help with the cost of living and both parties are wedded to Brexit, austerity cuts and the same damaging policies that got the UK into this mess."