THE Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said she believes that younger Scots will vote to reject independence because of the “interconnected world” they inhabit.
Ms Davidson claimed in a speech yesterday that coming generations were not “limited by historical boundaries”, adding: “They certainly can’t see the sense or value in drawing a new border between ourselves and are nearest neighbours.”
Her speech, titled A Union for the Next Generation, argued that the SNP’s argument for independence was out of kilter with the modern world.
“It does seem oddly out of place in our increasingly interconnected and interdependent world,” she said.
“The proposition that we would progress as a society by building more barriers between people and nations seems, if anything, downright old fashioned … nationalists cast themselves as a progressive force, but rather than being driven forward by the tide of history, they are swimming against it.”
Ms Davidson quoted figures suggesting that the younger portion of the Scottish electorate wanted to maintain the “shared values” of the United Kingdom.
A recent study for the Economic and Social Research Council shows that 60 per cent of 14 to 17-year-olds plan to stay in the UK, she said.
Ms Davidson added: “A clear majority of Scots under the age of 35, and more than half of Scots under the age of 24, reject independence.”
Ms Davidson, who opposed the Scottish Parliament’s one-off decision to lower the voting age limit to 16, said it was now her job to speak to the teenagers who will have a say in September next year.
The referendum offers a choice to “renew a union” which will benefit the next generation, she said in her address to around 25 members of the Conservative Friends of the Union, who had gathered at the Dynamic Earth tourist attraction in Edinburgh.
In a question-and-answer session later, the Tory leader stood up for her decision to oppose the voting-age reduction but pledged to campaign for the support of younger people.
“It is absolutely my job to speak to people in that age group,” she said.
Ms Davidson’s speech was billed as an attempt to steer the pro-UK argument in a positive direction.
The Better Together parties, which include the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, have been accused by independence campaigners of scaremongering.
The Tory leader said: “Endless claims of scaremongering and negativity do nothing to illuminate the debate and they short-change a public anxious to have the information upon which to make an informed decision.
“We don’t build ourselves up as a nation by tearing one another apart but, equally, we would ill-serve the people of Scotland by failing to ask hard-headed questions about what is being proposed.”
Although she is against independence, Ms Davidson described it as an “honourable” aim, adding that the Tories “share the nationalists’ faith in Scotland’s future”.
Tough questions of the pro-independence campaign should not be seen as an attack on Scotland, she argued.
“Explaining why we believe Scotland is well-served by being part of the United Kingdom should not be deliberately misinterpreted as lack of confidence and stating simple truths – like North Sea oil is a diminishing resource whose price is volatile – is not an attack on our native industry, inventiveness and ingenuity upon which our future prosperity depends,” she said.
Ms Davidson also focused on Scotland’s financial services as a positive case for the union. The industry supports more than 160,000 jobs and accounts for £9.9 billion of business conducted with the rest of the United Kingdom, while about 84 per cent of mortgages sold by Scottish firms were to people in the rest of the UK, she argued.
Referring to earlier research published by the UK government, Ms Davidson said that Scottish firms sold 19,075 pension products to Scottish households last year and, over the same period, 186,627 across the rest of the UK.
“I think that puts matters firmly in perspective,” Ms Davidson added.