SCOTTISH Tory leader Ruth Davidson will today make her call for “the tartan Tories to come home” as she attempts to capitalise on her party’s success in the Independence referendum in the SNP’s heartlands.
Ahead of her speech at the Conservative’s UK conference in Birmingham where she is set to be lauded for a strong referendum campaign, Ms Davidson also told The Scotsman that she believes complete control over income tax raised in Scotland at Holyrood would strengthen her party’s appeal north of the Border.
And the Scottish Conservative leader has warned that if the pro-UK parties fail to get the settlement for Scotland right there will be another “divisive referendum” in less than 10 years.
In a move which puts pressure on the Labour Party, whose proposal is to only give Scotland control over 15p out of the 20p basic rate of income tax, Ms Davidson has insisted that handing over complete control of the levy is her “top priority”.
But her priority is to re-establish the Tories in Scotland and capitalise on the 170,000 SNP voters who rejected independence in the referendum in the SNP heartlands of Moray, Angus, Perth and Kinross and Aberdeenshire where the Tories are the main opposition.
While the SNP has reported a massive increase in its membership on the back of the referendum, Ms Davidson has said the Scottish Tories have picked up many new members too, although she won’t say how many apart from the 80,000 who signed up to her Friends of the Union.
She said: “We know 170,000 people across Scotland who voted SNP in the 2011 election voted No. I strongly suspect that a huge proportion of these 170,000 are tartan Tories and my message to them is that it is time for the tartan Tories to come home.
“I think there is a large proportion of the population in Scotland that believes in lower taxation, believes in small government, believes in educational choice, believes in enterprise.”
She also believes that the expected election of Nicola Sturgeon as the new SNP leader will help as the nationalists and Labour have “a slug fest” for votes in west central Scotland.
She added that the referendum campaign “means we as Conservatives are visible in communities we haven’t been visible in for a while.”
Ms Davidson also angrily hit out at Labour over its claims that English votes for English laws proposed by David Cameron would turn the four nations against one another.
She said: “If you look at the party that was talking up the cooperation between the nations, if you look at the party that was actually celebrating the UK, celebrating what we have achieved together and Scotland’s contribution to that, that was the Conservative Party whereas the Labour Party spent much more of the referendum to my mind trying to knock down the SNP.”
She added: “We [Conservatives] feel the Union very deeply. We feel our Britishness as well as our Scottishness very deeply. That’s reflected in the way we won 90 per cent of Conservative voters to vote to remain in the UK whereas the Labour Party lost up to a third of their voters to Yes.”
She said her message to voters in the 2015 general election and 2016 Holyrood election was to not vote tactically “because you get what you vote for”.
She argued that this is particularly true of the SNP in the light of comments by outgoing First Minister Alex Salmond and former deputy leader Jim Sillars suggesting that Scotland could declare independence without a referendum.
She said: “I know a lot of people who are very uneasy by senior politicians Jim Sillars and Alex Salmond saying that there are ways other than a referendum to secure independence and you could actually declare it. I think that will put the fear of death into some people across Scotland.”