Party leaders in festive call for reconciliation

Jim Murphy, along with Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson, has called for the nation to unite. Picture: John Devlin

Jim Murphy, along with Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson, has called for the nation to unite. Picture: John Devlin

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Political rivals have urged Scots to use the Christmas spirit to heal divisions caused by the independence referendum and to put political differences aside during the festive season.

In their seasonal messages to the nation, the leaders of Scottish Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats each issued appeals for No voters and Yes voters to come together in the first Christmas after the two year independence campaign.

The newly elected Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy, called on Scots to unite to “build the fairest nation on earth” as he demanded urgent action to erode poverty and the reliance of food banks.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the referendum had been a “stramash”, but the “silent majority” won the day, as he highlighted what he claimed were key gains from the process such as a more powerful Scottish Parliament and better welfare support for poverty- stricken Scots.

Mr Rennie stated that voters had handled the referendum debate “well,” but said that people from both sides should now enjoy the festive season together.

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Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson issued a similar message, with a call for Yes and No supporters to “come back together” this Christmas and New Year after what she admitted had, at times, been a “painful” political experience for the nation.

Ms Davidson accepted that “divisions were created” during the referendum, which saw independence defeated by of 55 per cent to 45 per cent. The Glasgow MSP said the “country, communities, families” had divided during the referendum, which has dominated Scotland’s political life since the SNP’s landslide election victory in 2011.

Ms Davidson said: “While the independence referendum was a debate we needed to have, the very nature of it meant that divisions were created – in the country, in communities, even in families. Christmas is a time for people to come back together. It is also a time to put politics to one side and to concentrate on being with loved ones.”

Mr Murphy backed the call for unity from Ms Davidson and Mr Rennie, but suggested governments at Holyrood and Westminster had failed to prevent a growing reliance on food banks.

He said: “Whether we voted Yes or No in the referendum, we all want to build a fairer, better country. “I am sickened by the fact that our nation, as prosperous as it is, still relies on food banks, but I am inspired by the fact there are so many good people who want to alleviate that hardship. So, let’s use that pride and passion to build the fairest nation on earth here in this land.”

Mr Murphy, Ms Davidson and Mr Rennie all used their seasonal messages to offer their solidarity and support to those affected by the lorry crash with shoppers in Glasgow’s George Square this week.

Liberal Democrat MSP Mr Rennie said that Scotland had emerged from 2014 with an enhanced reputation, with Glasgow’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games and the holding of the referendum, as he quoted from the late Scottish football broadcasting legend, Arthur Montford.

Mr Rennie said: “We showed that democracy matters with the silent majority winning the day. As the late Arthur Montford would often say, there was a “stramash,” but Scotland won.

“At the end of the year we have secured a more powerful Parliament that will have the flexibility and agility to reflect the will and desires of the people of Scotland.”

SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie, welcoming the calls from his opponents, said: “As the First Minister has made clear, taking a One Scotland approach where we all make every effort to find common cause and work together is at the core of her approach to government.”

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