Douglas Ross is ‘part of the problem’ around support for independence, says Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie
Douglas Ross is “part of the problem” around increased support for independence, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie has said.
Speaking at a media briefing, the Scottish Lib Dem leader also said that there was a “softness” in support for the SNP he had not seen for years and predicted that support for independence would continue to decline.
Asked whether he and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar were “naïve” to refuse to work with the Conservatives to oppose independence, Rennie said people were looking for a progressive alternative to the SNP and they wouldn’t find that with the Conservatives.
Rennie also called the Scottish Conservative leader’s campaign “dark and negative”.
He said: “The Conservatives are part of the problem. And Douglas is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
“The Conservatives have been one of the drivers for people looking for an alternative.
“And whereas I think people are looking for a fresh, progressive alternative to the SNP, you don't achieve that by hooking up with the Conservatives.
“We are trying to reach out and attract more people who are contemplating the SNP and independence.
“We won't do that by hooking up with the Conservatives.
“Douglas's campaign has been dark and negative.
“He said his top priority, remember, on becoming prime minister, if he ever got that opportunity, would be to clamp down on gypsy travellers.
“Now, I don't think that's probably on the tips of everybody's tongue in Scotland, but that's what he said.
“So it's very dark, negative, divisive.
“So if we're going to change Scottish politics, it's going to be have to be a progressive alternative to the SNP, not a Conservative alternative.
“So that's why we're saying no [to working with the Conservatives].
“He's got no interest in reaching out to new groups of voters.
“Whereas I think I have, and I think Anas has as well.
“And that will be the way to make sure, not only do we get an alternative government to the SNP, but we can avoid the breakup of the United Kingdom by saying there is a different way of doing it rather than the Conservative way.”
Rennie suggested that the difficulty with the Conservatives was that their recent success was “born out of just being opposed to independence and the SNP and very little else”.
He added: “So they need the SNP in order to succeed. They feed off each other.”
The answer, he said, was to “remove them all” to be able to focus on the putting the recovery first.
Rennie also claimed support for the SNP was “soft” and that backing for independence was declining and would continue to go down because of perpetual infighting within the movement, making the prospect of a majority of MSPs in support of independence less likely.
“What we have seen is a steady decline in support for independence,” he said.
“And I think that will continue the more that we see the dreadful prospect, perhaps coming real, of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, Douglas Ross, the forever arguments between the different factions of the nationalist movement, I think support for them will go down.
“So therefore, I don't think this will come to reality. I think it's looking less likely now than it was even a few weeks ago.
“I think it's going down. What the polls are hiding is a softness in the SNP vote that I have not seen for years.
“They've not moved yet. But they're ready to move. And we are opening the door for them.”