Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have both promised to increase the scrutiny of the Scottish government if they become the next prime minister – ahead of a visit north of the border.
MS Trusswho remains the favorite to win the race, said she would get “Scotland’s economy moving” and would give Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) special legal protection, allowing them to be more outspoken as they scrutinize decisions made by the devolved government.
Mr Sunak promised Scottish civil servants would face greater scrutiny from Westminster and UK ministers would be required to be more visible in Scotland.
The pair will face questions from Tory members in Perth on Tuesday following a verbal tussle between Ms Truss and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over the past week.
Ms Truss called Ms Sturgeon an “attention seeker”, then the Scottish leader claimed the foreign secretary asked her how to get into Vogue before Ms Truss accused all three returned nations’ leaders of playing “political games” over independence.
Calling herself a “child of the Union”, Ms Truss said she will deliver for all of the country and “will never talk down Scotland’s potential”, while saying the nation has been “let down by the SNP”.
She added: “I’ll make sure that my government does everything to ensure elected representatives hold the returned administration to account for its failure to deliver the quality public services, particularly health and education, that Scottish people deserve.
“As prime minister and minister for the Union, I will deliver on my ambitious plan to capitalize on the opportunity we have to turbocharge the growth and business investment required to get Scotland’s economy moving.”
Ms Truss’ campaign team said she would push for a trade deal with India in which a long-standing 150% tariff on whiskey exports would be slashed.
She would also alter the Scotland Act to give parliamentary privilege to MSPs to create more “robust questioning” of ministers and increase the powers of the Scottish Parliament to hold the Scottish government to account.
Mr Sunak pledged to make it a requirement for Scotland’s most senior civil servant, the permanent secretary to the Scottish government, to attend Westminster’s Public Affairs and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) Select Committee every year – just like the UK government’s cabinet secretary.
He also promised to enforce “consistent reporting of public service performance data across the country” so Westminster could hold the Scottish government accountable for essential public service delivery.
The former chancellor said each nation needs to work together “shoulder to shoulder” as he accused the SNP of being able to “obscure its failures by picking and choosing the data it publishes”.
Mr Sunak has been trailing behind in the polls of Tory members, who will decide who their new leader – and therefore prime minister – will be on 5 September.
He was handed a further blow on Monday after a third Conservative MP, former Welsh secretary Alun Cairns, switched allegiance from Mr Sunak to Ms Truss, saying he believes she is best placed to save the union and fears the break-up of the UK would be more likely under Mr Sunak.