SCOTTISH Secretary Alister Jack has claimed the next first minister has an opportunity to “reset the relationship with the UK Government”.

Following Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation, three candidates have so far thrown their hats into the ring for the next SNP leader and taking over at the helm of the Scottish Government.

At Scottish Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Jack was quick to bring up the SNP leadership contest.

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It came as another Scotland Office minister claimed SNP infighting was the “most savage since the Blair-Brown civil war”.

Jack, responding to a question about the impact of the Retained EU Law Bill, told the chamber: “I realise that many of my colleagues on the benches diagonally opposite are somewhat preoccupied by the contest to become the leader of the SNP and as Scotland's first minister.

“In my view, this is a real opportunity for a new first minister to reset the relationship with the United Kingdom Government to work constructively with us and to make life better for the people of Scotland.

“We need a first minister that will put Scotland's interest above the nationalist interest. And my offer to all those running in this, is that the United Kingdom Government stands ready to work with you, and that will be the real win for improving the lives of people in Scotland.”

SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes thanked the “Governor General” for a “long-winded response” and asked Jack for his assessment of the Retained EU Law Bill impact on Scotland and reports that environmental regulation could cost the UK Government £83 billion over the next three decades.

He added: “Does the Secretary of State believe it's right for Scotland to face yet another billion-pound price tag for a Brexit it didn’t vote for?”

Jack responded: “I don't really recognise that analysis, the only environment we are respecting ... standards, we're increasing standards.

“On the areas that are devolved, we respect that and the Scottish Government were able to deal with those matters under retained EU law as they see fit. And where there's overlap, we have frameworks and we will work together.”

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SNP MP Gavin Newlands described Jack’s response as “utter drivel”.

Later in the debate, SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford raised the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) identifying 1700 “pieces of retained EU law, with the majority in devolved areas in agriculture, forestry and fishing”. She asked what would happen if the Scottish Government wanted to maintain pieces of EU law the Tories wanted to ditch.

Jack said the UK Government was working “constructively and collaboratively” with the Scottish Government and would allow them to “do as it sees fit”.

Whitford later asked: “Does he recognise that the combined effect of both pieces of legislation will drastically increase the degree of direct rule by Westminster and drives a Coach and Horses through devolution?”

The National: Whitford pointed out that many of the areas in the EU retained law were devolvedWhitford pointed out that many of the areas in the EU retained law were devolved (Image: House of Commons)

Jack said “that wasn’t true”, adding: “We are respecting the devolved settlement. So if you take precision breeding, for instance, gene editing, it's the case that the Scottish farming industry, the National Farmers Union of Scotland and all other farming unions in the UK want to be part of that bill.

“But we have respected the Scottish Government saying they don't want to be part of it.

“They want their dogma desires them to carry on with the EU rules and we respect that.”

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During an exchange between Labour MP Ian Murray and Scotland Office junior minister John Lamont, the Tory MP made a dig about SNP infighting.

Murray said: “So does the minister agree with me that amid such a serious crisis in Scotland is frankly absurd, that failed Scottish Government ministers are fighting amongst themselves for the top job when too many Scots are worrying about how they pay their bills?”

Lamont told the Commons: “It does seem that the SNP have decided to provide the country with compelling drama now that Happy Valley has ended.