Dear Alister,

I wrote an open letter to you when you took office and offered some, I hope helpful, advice, particularly about the perils of letting other people speak for you.

Some hours after the UK Budget on Wednesday I read a report quoting you speaking for yourself and felt I needed to offer a further thought. This can be summed up in that old adage “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

You are already aware that many people think you and your party are politically out of touch with Scotland, and you yourself confirm that regularly by, for example, going about preaching the merits of Brexit though the evidence is that it will do great damage to your constituents and your country, which voted against it.

During last December’s election you went so far as to say that you “viewed the EU as a business club that wasn’t fit for purpose” and that you looked favourably on the largely de-regulated Asian economies.

It is undoubtedly true that many wealthy Tories would be happier with a system which promoted their interests over those of their workers.

However, the implication that the EU is a failing business club is nonsense. The EU has been a source of peace, prosperity and social progress on our continent for more than half a century, and has helped countless individuals lead better lives. Moreover, the single market, which you regard as not fit for your purposes, has been a massive success for all its members, including the UK.

It is the world’s largest true free trade area, yet you want to drag us out of it.

But back to the Budget. Your lofty instruction on Wednesday was that the Scottish Government should use its monies (which are in real terms less than we got in 2010) to “improve upon ... failing public services” and that you would like to “see education standards improve ... hospitals being built properly ... ferries being built and delivered on time and ... local authorities receive more money”.

Let’s do some “compare and contrast” on that. We could start with the abject failures of the Tory-run UK public services, given that your party’s performance on key health indicators south of the Border is substantially worse than that of the Scottish Health Service.

You might want also want to find out about the building sites in Liverpool and Manchester, which should by now have been hospitals, and reflect upon massive overspending and delays there before criticising a Health Secretary who is insisting on safety, accountability, and performance.

In education, Scotland is praised internationally for its approach to a modern delivery of skills and knowledge, and it has a world-beating higher education system which is, of course, based upon the ability to learn, not the ability to pay.

On ferries, while I too regret the problems at Fergusons, I wonder if you have ever heard of your Tory colleague Chris Grayling and the £50 million he paid for boats which never sailed and never will?

And as for local authorities – do you recall more than a decade of austerity and the constant cutting of Scottish Government budgets?

Even so, the Scottish Government has managed to deliver a level of local government funding which English councils look on with envy.

Finally, to add insult to injury, you sternly warned us against using any of the “Union dividend”, as you call it, on “separation”.

Scotland has the right to choose its own future and we also have the right to set our own priorities. You do the same. So if you really want to tell us what not to spend money on, I would want to insist you spend none of Scotland’s taxes on, say, Trident, HS2, and Brexit. OK?

So here is my advice. Think first. Think before saying things which reveal you as a Secretary of State for Scotland who doesn’t want, as you keep telling me, to work with the Scottish Government, but one who wants only to score political points against it.

These are difficult times. They require us all to rise above the normal noise. We have to co-operate to help our fellow citizens face and overcome a global threat.

Neither of us has the exclusive right to speak for Scotland. But as you represent a party that hasn’t won an election here in more than half a century, you might show a touch more grace when dealing with one elected three times over.

Hope this advice helps.

As ever,