Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could be handed new powers as a result of Brexit, Michael Gove has said.
The Tory leadership candidate said leaving the European Union (EU) offered the opportunity to “renew and reboot” the Union as he set out his pitch to succeed David Cameron as prime minister.
Mr Gove said control over policy areas such as agriculture and fishing could flow to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies.
Mr Gove said the vote in Scotland, where 62 per cent backed Remain, raised “profound” questions and vowed to listen to Scottish public opinion.
Commenting on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts to secure Scotland’s place in the EU, he said: “I don’t want to take any precipitous steps and the First Minister has an absolute constitutional right to do as she thinks is appropriate in these circumstances.
“If she wants a prime minister who understands and believes in Scotland - and indeed somebody who has got personal friends in the SNP, who include SNP MPs, people I’ve worked with for 20 years - then I can do that.
“I can do it because the one thing I will want to do is make the United Kingdom work and I will treat with respect those people who’ve got a mandate in Scotland.”
Asked whether he would block a second referendum on Scottish independence if successful in his bid for the leadership, he responded: “I don’t think we’re going to have a second independence referendum.”
SNP MSP Mike Russell, convener of Holyrood’s Finance Committee, said: “People across Scotland - in every single part of our country - voted to remain in the EU and we are determined to make sure that clear democratic expression is recognised.
“It’s absolutely outrageous that a prospective prime minister is now using a Leave vote to imply that Scotland’s budget could be slashed - just months after the Tories agreed a new financial settlement for Scotland.”
He called on all leadership candidates, including Mr Gove’s main rival Home Secretary Theresa May, to rule out any cuts to Scotland’s budget.