Scots Tories unveil pro-Union drive to fight new independence bid

Ruth Davidson has set out plans for a pro-Union campaign to counter the SNP's renewed drive for independence. Picture: PA

Ruth Davidson has set out plans for a pro-Union campaign to counter the SNP's renewed drive for independence. Picture: PA

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A FRESH battle over Scotland’s constitutional future is looming after Conservative leader Ruth Davidson set out plans to make the “clear UK case” in response to the SNP’s renewed independence drive.

The Tory leader says pro-union parties must shift away from the negativity which dominated the Better Together campaign two years ago as she launched her party’s manifesto for the Holyrood
elections yesterday.

Labour has had nine years, six leaders and no success in holding the SNP government to account. It’s time for somebody else to have a go

Ruth Davidson

Ms Davidson conceded that the SNP is poised for another victory in the Scottish Parliament vote next month and instead set out her case to be leader of the opposition, with a ten-point plan to hold the Nationalist regime to account.

After Nicola Sturgeon revealed plans for a fresh campaign to make a renewed case for independence in the summer, the Tory leader called for the “counter case” to be made.

Ms Davidson told supporters in Glasgow: “None of this should surprise us – indeed the only surprise I have is that my colleagues in Labour and the Lib Dems seem to think it could be otherwise.

“So our clear manifesto commitment today is to make the counter case. To stand up against a second independence referendum. To insist there is no cause, no cause whatsoever to take us back.”

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The Tory manifesto insists there are should be no “indyref triggers” for a second vote on the constitution including the prospect of Scotland being taken out of the EU in the June referendum on the strength of a UK-wide vote, while Scots opt to stay in.

Ms Davidson added: “The Labour party has had nine years, six leaders and no success in holding the SNP Government to account – it’s time for somebody else to have a go.”

The ten-point plan also includes repealing the Scottish Government’s “named person” proposal and instead setting up a Crisis Family Fund to provide early intervention to “troubled families”.

The party would also demand spending on the NHS rises by at least 2 per cent a year, and an extra £300 million for mental health services.

The manifesto calls for 100,000 new homes to be built over the next five years, and for £1 billion to be spent improving energy efficiency.

The Tories are just a few points behind Labour in recent polls.

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A YouGov poll this week suggested most Scots believe Ms Davidson would make a better opposition leader than Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

But both the SNP and Labour hit out at the Conservatives over plans to scrap free university education and reintroduce prescription fees.

SNP campaign director John Swinney said: “Ruth Davidson admits her manifesto isn’t a programme for government and that her party have no intention of setting out a detailed plan on how they would run Scotland.

“That is irresponsible and disrespectful to voters, who deserve better from the Tories than a long list of things they are against and virtually nothing about what they are for.”

He added: “Their only policies of note are their deeply unpopular, regressive plans to bring back university tuition fees of £6,000 and to slap a tax on the sick by bringing back prescription charges.

“As for Scotland’s future, no single party or politician – and certainly not Ruth Davidson – has the right to dictate what that should be. Only the people of Scotland can and will determine this nation’s future constitutional path.”

Labour equalities spokesman Neil Findlay also called on the Conservatives to “spell out the cost of their plan for secret taxes on the sick and on students”.

He said: “Instead of setting out a vision for the NHS, Ruth Davidson wants to introduce a tax on the sick by reintroducing prescription charges.

“On tax, the defining issue of this election, Ruth Davidson has nothing to say.

“A vote for the Tories in May is a vote to endorse David Cameron and George Osborne’s tax policies. They won’t do a thing to stop hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and public services.

“Ruth Davidson wants to take Scotland back to the arguments of the past because she has nothing to say about using the powers to stop the cuts.”

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