Boris fights back in response to SNP grip on power as Whitehall moves north to Edinburgh

Boris Johnson hits out at SNP’s handling of devolution

Express.co.uk can reveal Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack is moving more UK officials to Edinburgh amid rising support for the SNP. The plans will see 10 Whitehall Departments draw up blueprints for having some form of presence in Scotland.

Mr Jack and Downing Street want to increase the UK Government’s identity with the new plans which includes creating a new Scottish Home Office migration unit.

Speaking today, Mr Jack told Express.co.uk: “The Prime Minister has been very clear that he wants to see more ministers visiting Scotland.

“We are asking those [Whitehall] departments to put key people into Queen Elizabeth House, the new hub that we have in Edinburgh.

When pressed on examples, Mr Jack referenced the Home Office and said: “If you take the Home Office, a migration team will be there making sure we get migration relevant to Scotland’s needs.”

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He stressed those decisions were being taken currently.

Under the plans, new UK officials would be based at the UK Government’s HQ at Queen Elizabeth House, which will house 3,000 civil servants from multiple departments.

So far, the property is home of the Office of the Advocate General, HMRC, HM Treasury, Cabinet Office, the Office for Statistics Regulation, the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the Government Actuary’s Department

It comes following visits by UK Government ministers including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and ministers, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma north of the border.

Mr Jack stressed the increased presence of Westminster ministers in Scotland was a reaction to the impression the UK Government had “retreated a bit over the years”.

At the same time, the UK Government is boosting its PR strategy in a bid to increase the profile of the Union.

Part of this, Express.co.uk understands, will involve a new team in the Cabinet Office led by Michael Gove to counter significant backing of the SNP led administration in Scotland.

A Whitehall source said: “It’s extremely important for the UK to have a wider presence in Scotland and a greater focus in Whitehall north of the border.

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“Scotland is dominated by the SNP with many policy comments often going unchallenged so we will aim to respond more efficiently .”

The Cabinet Office has begun hiring new communications officers this month as part of this move.

In response, an SNP policy source claimed Boris Johnson was in “panic mode” over rising support for independence and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The source said the strategy shows how “out-of-touch the Tories are with the Scottish people.”

It comes after more than 15 polls showed support for Scottish independence with the latest Ipsos Mori poll conducted between November 20th and 26th showing record support for Nicola Sturgeon’s administration.

Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said the research also points to high levels of trust in the SNP.

She said: “The party’s record on key issues such as the economy, education and public services has been much criticised by the Conservatives in recent months.

“However, those messages do not appear to be cutting through with Scottish voters, who trust the SNP much more on the economy, education and the NHS than they do any other political party.”

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