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13 April 2016
Conservative leader Ruth Davidson unveils fresh drive for Scotland to stay in the UK

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson unveils fresh drive for Scotland to stay in the UK

Ruth Davidson has set out plans to launch a “fresh, positive drive to promote the benefits of the Union” as the Scottish Conservative leader claimed the case for independence is “dead”.

Launching the Tories manifesto for the upcoming Scottish Parliament election, Davidson said the party would oppose another independence referendum under any circumstances, after the SNP announced last month plans to undertake a fresh drive for Scottish independence this summer.

Speaking in Glasgow, the Scottish Conservative leader said the party would “insist there is no cause, no cause whatsoever, to take us back” to another referendum.


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She dismissed “any so-called ‘indyref triggers’ that justify another referendum” as she countered suggestions that the outcome of June’s referendum on EU membership should play a part in any decision to hold a second vote on independence.

However, Davidson – who said “it’s time for somebody else to have a go” as she set out the party’s stall to replace Labour as the main opposition at Holyrood – stressed there would be “no more Project Fear tactics”.

“Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear she plans to start a fresh campaign for independence as early as the summer if she is re-elected as First Minister next month,” said Davidson.

“None of this should surprise us – indeed the only surprise I have is that my colleagues in Labour and the Lib Dems seem to think it could be otherwise. So our clear manifesto commitment today is to make the counter case.

“To stand up against a second referendum on independence. To insist there is no cause, no cause whatsoever, to take us back. Not because we want to go over the old arguments again and again, but because – faced by the SNP’s explicit threat – it is our duty to do so.”

Davidson said that the case for staying in the UK “must be made far, far better” than it was in the run-up to the independence referendum on September 18 2014.

“Our country needs to move on from the Better Together Yes Scotland divide of the past,” she added. “We can’t win a continuing case for a United Kingdom by only pointing to the negatives of independence or showing where the white paper didn’t work.

“What I am saying is no more Project Fear – this is about a positive case to say, ‘here are all the of the things where we work well and work better with our colleagues just over the border or in Wales or over in Northern Ireland’.

“It’s about a concentrated effort by all of us backing the UK – this party, other parties, no party at all – to patiently make that case for the United Kingdom. It’s not about setting the 55 against the 45, but it’s about listening and learning and making sure that we take the temperature down and have a considered conversation where we move our country forward.”

Davidson said “it’s not necessarily a huge new campaign vehicle” the party is pushing for but rather about “making sure those of us that do that believe we are better, stronger, better able to cope by working together in the world to make that case in a positive manner”.

Asked whether the fresh initiative would be led by the Scottish party or include involvement of the UK Government, she said it is “about people in Scotland talking to Scots”.

“I think it’s for those of us who were part of that [independence] campaign and continue to believe that the will of the nation should be respected to make that case," she said. "I would say that is one for us here in Scotland but of course working with partners elsewhere as and when required.”

The Conservative leader said the party’s manifesto, which includes calls for an additional £300m to be invested in mental health treatment over the course of the next parliament, “isn’t a programme for government – it is a programme for that strong opposition”.

The Conservatives in opposition intend to set up a shadow council of economic advisers to “provide continuing advice on tax decisions made by the Scottish Government”, according to their manifesto.

The party will also push for repeal of legislation giving every young person in Scotland under the age of 18 a ‘named person’ and would instead seek to set up a ‘Crisis Family Fund’ which would support projects which “offer early intervention, help troubled families, and provide tailored support”.

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