Ruth Davidson appoints taskforce to thwart indyref2 drive

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has revealed a new group to fight the renewed independence drive . Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has revealed a new group to fight the renewed independence drive . Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
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Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has unveiled a new group to lead the battle against Nicola Sturgeon's plans for a second independence referendum following the Brexit vote.

A former UK ambassador to a number of European countries will sit on the group which also includes leading business figures, as well as MSPs who voted Remain and Leave.

It will examine how best to ensure Scotland manages both the risks and opportunities of its post-EU future - but as part of the UK.


Ms Davidson said in a keynote speech in London today that the First Minister has used the outcome of the EU referendum to re-ignite the campaign for Scottish independence - and pledged to thwart this.

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The SNP leader has said that a second referendum is "highly likely" after the Brexit vote and Scottish Government civil servants are drawing up the necessary legislation if she decides to call one.


But Ms Davidson said today: “I think the Scottish Government has got it wrong in its response to the Brexit vote.


“The First Minister tried to use the vote to create a bow wave surge for independence. It hasn’t worked but I don’t think the SNP will stop trying.

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“And sadly, in our judgement, the push for separation will continue to be the main priority for the SNP Government as we head into Brexit discussions – and not the best interests of Scotland and the United Kingdom.


“So while I will continue to support the Scottish Government’s involvement in Brexit discussions, I am also announcing today that the Scottish Conservatives will form our own expert group to assess the risks and opportunities of Brexit for Scotland."


Gavin Hewitt, the former chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association and, prior to that, the UK’s Ambassador to Belgium, Finland and Croatia is on the group, along with Sir Iain McMillan, the former head of CBI Scotland.


It also includes Tory MSPs Adam Tomkins, who voted to Remain, and Alexander Stewart who voted to Leave.


“I will ask them to report to me on how best they believe Brexit can deliver for Scotland and – crucially - for the entire United Kingdom," Ms Davidson added.


“We believe that Scotland’s interests are not served by constantly trying to pick apart the United Kingdom.


“We believe that Scotland’s best interests are served by ensuring the strength and durability of the entire United Kingdom of which we are a key part.”


A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said independence remains an option to protect Scotland's relationship with the EU.


He said: "The evidence is mounting by the day of the potentially huge damage Brexit threatens to jobs, investment and Scotland's economy.


"It is Ruth Davidson and her Tory colleagues who have created the problem but who also appear utterly clueless about how to fix it.


"As a start, perhaps Ms Davidson can answer the simple question that her boss the Prime Minister was unable to answer last week: does she believe the UK should continue in the single market - yes or no?


"The First Minister has made clear that we will be exploring all possible options to protect Scotland's future in Europe - and it is absolutely right that independence should be one of those options."