Boris Johnson has signed off on plans to stamp the Union flag on projects paid for by the UK government in Scotland after Brexit.
The flag will replace the European Union symbol, which is used to denote projects the trading bloc has help fund, from next year, The Telegraph has reported.
Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross, has backed the idea telling colleagues in Westminster that the government needed to be ‘unashamed of our investment in Scotland’.
But SNP politicians greeted the news with dismay, with one accusing Downing Street of ‘posturing of the worst order’ and ‘trying to force the Union flag down people’s throats’.
From 2021, the Union flag will appear on projects funded by Westminster in Scotland but will not apply to those being funded solely by the Scottish government, which receives its budget in annual block grants from London.
On Thursday, Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, said the initiatives had been signed off by Johnson and Michael Gove, the cabinet office minister, and would start after the end of the Brexit transition period.
‘Where there is direct investment or joint investment between the two governments, you would expect to see the Union Jack sitting alongside the Saltire,’ he said.
Acknowledging the flag would be off-putting to SNP supporters, he quipped: ‘They never got upset about seeing a European Union flag sitting alongside the Saltire.’
Tommy Sheppard, a senior SNP MP, described the plan as ‘foolish, and political tokenism and posturing of the worst order’.
He said: ‘It would probably be counterproductive because there is no point trying to force the union flag down people’s throats in the hope that they would like it.
‘If the Union is so great, they should not need constantly to use the flag to promote it.’
Johnson visited Scotland last month in a bid to promote ‘the sheer might’ of the Union following a rise in Scots supporting a second independence referendum.
He also toured Belfast on Thursday where he met with Stormont leaders to discuss ways to strengthen backing for the Union in Northern Ireland as the country rebuilds after the coronavirus.
Polling for the Tories north of the border remains dismal with one poll suggesting Boris Johnson is 100 points behind Scottish first minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon in voters’ approval ratings.
Downing Street is believed to be worried that a rise in support for independence and a potential landslide victory for the SNP in next year’s Holyrood elections could put serious strain on the future of the Union.