Holyrood has been denied the chance to question UK Brexit ministers before negotiations to leave the EU begin.
David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, had previously pledged to appear before the Scottish Parliament’s European Committee.
He later offered his junior minister David Jones instead, who The Courier can reveal has turned down a proposed appearance in front of MSPs.
Richard Lochhead, an SNP member of the committee, said: “It is astonishing that with weeks to go before the triggering of Article 50, neither the Brexit Secretary nor even his junior sidekick have deemed it a priority to appear before the Scottish Parliament despite their promises to do so.
“This is not only disrespectful to Parliament, it is disrespectful to Scotland, especially when Brexit is being described as the biggest post-war challenge we have faced.
“The failure to appear before the Holyrood committee illustrates the Tory Government’s contempt for Scotland and the will of our parliament.”
Mr Jones was invited to give evidence on February 9 but rearranged that to March 16. He has now suggested he gives evidence to the committee in mid-April.
It is understood that UK Government ministers involved in the Brexit process have been told to cancel all visits and be in or around London during the week Mr Jones was supposed to be in Edinburgh in case the House of Lords rejects its Brexit plan.
Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has said she will trigger Article 50, the formal process for quitting the Brussels bloc, before the end of the month.
Senior SNP figures say the timing of any demand for a second independence referendum will hinge on how and when Mrs May triggers Article 50.
The Courier understands that Nationalist strategists are not keen on the idea of a big announcement at the party’s conference in a fortnight in case it is seen as preaching to the converted rather than speaking to the rest of the country, but they add the clinching factor on timing could be if there is no mention of a separate Scottish deal in the notice period for EU membership.
A group chaired by Conservative MEP Ian Duncan yesterday declared that a bespoke deal was neither “deliverable” nor in Scotland’s “self-interest”.
A senior SNP source said: “All of this cumulatively is edging us more and more towards triggering a constitutional device we have said from the off we are willing to use if necessary.”
A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said: “UK Government Ministers have been fully engaging with the Scottish Government.
“The Secretary of State for Scotland has also appeared before Holyrood’s European Committee and other Ministers have appeared before the Scottish Parliament.
“We have also established the JMC process, so that all parts of the UK are fully involved in the process of planning the UK’s departure from the EU.”