The two candidates to be the UK’s next prime minister are vowing to clip Nicola Sturgeon’s wings if they reach No 10, ahead of Tory party hustings in Scotland.
Both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak promised to beef up scrutiny of the Scottish government – the former chancellor calling for “better join-up across the Union” of public services, despite the devolution settlement.
Mr Sunak said he would force the SNP administration to publish “consistent data” to allow performance comparisons with the rest of the UK and force civil servants to attend Westminster committee hearings.
“For too long the SNP has been able to obscure its failures by picking and choosing the data it publishes. I would change that,” he said.
Ms Truss, the leadership race favourite, said members of the Holyrood parliament would be given parliamentary privilege to “more stringently hold the Scottish government to account”.
She said: “For too long, people in Scotland have been let down by the SNP focusing on constitutional division instead of their priorities. That won’t happen under my watch.”
The threats are made ahead of the next leadership hustings, to be staged in Perth, in the long run-up to Boris Johnson’s successor being unveiled on 5 September.
The contest has already proved bruising for relations between the Tory party and the SNP, after Ms Truss denounced Ms Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, as an “attention seeker”.
It was best to “ignore” Scotland’s leader, the foreign secretary said, later widening her attack to all the devolved leaders for playing “political games”.
Kirsten Oswald, the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, hit back, pledging: “Be in no doubt: whoever does become the next prime minister, Scotland’s voice will be heard.”
But Ms Truss is again vowing to keep a close eye on the SNP, saying: “Having grown up in Paisley, I consider myself to be a child of the union.
“I’ll make sure that my government does everything to ensure elected representatives hold the devolved administration to account for its failure to deliver the quality public services, particularly health and education, that Scottish people deserve.”
Mr Sunak went further in revealing he would explore “options for better join-up across the Union” in the delivery of health and other public services.
He criticised top civil servants being “answerable only to Holyrood, despite their work having a significant impact on the people of the UK and the Union” and said that must change.
Neither candidate commented on Labour’s package to curb eyewatering energy price hikes, despite the contrast with their own plans which have been widely criticised as vague.
Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, said: “The onus now is on the Conservative party to follow suit and to explain what they would do.”
Mr Sunak is also vowing to slash civil service jobs and require senior officials to spend a year working outside of Whitehall – but without saying if he still backs the cull of 90,000 jobs announced when he was chancellor.