RISHI Sunak has promised if he wins the race to be the next Tory leader he will become the most interventionist prime minister in Scotland since devolution began.

The Tory leadership hopeful claimed he would do “anything and everything” to protect the Union as he pledged to be “more active” in Scotland and criticised Nicola Sturgeon for “constitutional navel-gazing”.

Sunak’s comments were reminiscent of previous claims that he would “circumvent Holyrood” in a bid to implement key policy decisions.

He said: “There is nothing more Conservative than our precious Union, and everything great that we have achieved we have done so as one family,

“My government will do anything and everything to protect, sustain and strengthen it.”

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Sunak has recently courted criticism for undermining the devolution settlement for “bypassing Holyrood” in allocating levelling up funds directly to local councils.

His controversial move to give money directly to councils was praised by Scottish Tory MP Andrew Bowie MP in an article in The Times that alleged “we cannot trust the SNP to act in the best interests of the Scottish people”.

Sunak has continually signalled - despite devolution across several major policy areas like health, transport and education - that he would like to see more UK-wide public services, echoing previous policies criticised as “wrapping a flag” around Treasury-funded projects.

The former chancellor’s promise to intervene more in Scottish affairs seems to contradict the claim that he would ditch Whitehall’s “devolve and forget” mentality which was referenced by Bowie in his article in The Times.

The National: Rishi Sunak has the most support among Tory MPs to be the next party leaderRishi Sunak has the most support among Tory MPs to be the next party leader

Sunak’s comments followed the Tory party’s first internal debate on the Union which was hosted yesterday by the Conservative Union Research Unit.

At the event MPs discussed the effect Boris Johnson’s premiership had on the Union, with Robin Millar, the chairman of the group of 80 backbench MPs, denying that the Prime Minister had been a “recruiting sergeant” for independence.

Millar said: “I’m just gently pushing back at the idea that the prime minister was really the recruiting sergeant. There were other factors at play.”

However, a recent Panelbase poll last month found that more Scots were now backing independence, with 51% supporting a Yes vote.

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SNP leader Ian Blackford said: "While the Tory leadership race continues to contest in a rabid race to the right, one thing remains clear: whoever wins, Scotland will lose.

"The Westminster system is fundamentally broken. Whether it's Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss or Penny Mordaunt - Scotland will find itself stuck with a government it did not vote for, nor has voted for since 1955.

He added: “The Scottish Government was given a cast-iron democratic mandate by the people of Scotland to hold an independence referendum, and that is exactly what we intend to do.

"No Trump-like efforts from any Tory politician can deny that democratic reality."