Scottish Election 2021: Why pro-Union voters must back the Conservatives to derail the nationalist juggernaut – Douglas Ross MP

Scotland faces the nightmarish prospect of an SNP government propped up by Alex Salmond’s flag-waving ultra-nationalists, above, or Patrick Harvie’s Green nationalists, says Douglas Ross (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)Scotland faces the nightmarish prospect of an SNP government propped up by Alex Salmond’s flag-waving ultra-nationalists, above, or Patrick Harvie’s Green nationalists, says Douglas Ross (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Scotland faces the nightmarish prospect of an SNP government propped up by Alex Salmond’s flag-waving ultra-nationalists, above, or Patrick Harvie’s Green nationalists, says Douglas Ross (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Some politicians like to drum up enthusiasm by saying that every election is the most important there has ever been. On this occasion, I believe this campaign claim happens to be true.

In just three weeks’ time, the people of Scotland will go to the polls. At stake is not just Scotland’s immediate and long-term future but that of our entire United Kingdom.

So, when I tell you this is the most important election that I have ever been involved in, do not think I am crying wolf. I could not be any more serious or sincere.

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Already this week, many voters began to receive postal ballots through their letterboxes. Councils across the land have experienced a huge surge in requests, which now top one million. This equates to almost one in four voters and it is mostly due, of course, to Covid.

The hated virus has become ever-present, intruding into everything we do.

It is sometimes hard to think back to the pre-pandemic days when we took for granted simple pleasures such as heading over the horizon on holiday, a carefree night on the town or simply passing time with friends and family.

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Things are now beginning to move in the right direction for two main reasons – the extraordinary sacrifices we have all made for so long and the UK's dynamic, world-leading vaccination programme.

Some political analysts say that living under the cloud of Covid has diminished interest in the Holyrood election.

However, that is not what I am hearing from voters. Many of them are informed, engaged and itching to have their say. Much of that is motivated by the anger they feel at the SNP’s appalling record in power.

Increasingly, they are no longer fooled by SNP’s election campaign trick of pretending to be in opposition and dishonestly blaming everyone else for their own abject failings on wholly devolved domestic areas such as education, health and justice.

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On Tuesday night, during the STV leaders’ debate, I got the chance to challenge Nicola Sturgeon face to face.

More than 700 schools in Scotland have not been inspected for a decade or more. These included the First Minister’s own Ayrshire secondary. She can’t blame Covid for that – nor the attainment gap between richer and poorer pupils which remains as wide as ever.

The most shocking response came when I asked her about Scotland’s shameful drugs death toll, which has doubled during her seven years as First Minister.

I questioned her specifically about the closure two years ago of a rehab centre in her own Glasgow constituency.

Viewers heard the usual Sturgeon excuses, but her response also included the line that she “took her eye off the ball”. What, like a wayward golf shot?

Purposefully closing down rehab and deliberately slashing funding for addiction services while deaths consequently and predictably spiralled is not the same as a momentary distraction.

Her offensive choice of language and attempt to shirk responsibility and downplay the damning reality was outrageous and disrespectful to those who have died and the families that are broken by their loss.

Of course, what she will never admit is that education and drugs deaths will never, ever, be her priority. The truth is that Sturgeon’s lifelong driver has been and always will be a blind devotion to tearing apart the United Kingdom.

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I believe that we have a rotten government in Edinburgh. Sturgeon’s SNP have an abysmal record. Her psychodrama with Alex Salmond has exposed a nationalist movement waging a noxious, all-out civil war.

Once the votes are counted next month, we cannot discount the nightmarish prospect of awakening to an SNP government propped up by Salmond’s flag-waving ultra-nationalists or Patrick Harvie’s Green nationalists.

Salmond would force independence to the top of the agenda – to the reckless detriment of our recovery from Covid. The issues that really matter to people would be sacrificed at the altar of nationalist obsession.

Harvie is no better. His price for supporting Sturgeon – as I got him to admit during the TV debate – being the accelerated closure of Scotland’s oil and gas industry, with the devastating loss of 100,000 jobs.

My experience of an engaged electorate, who share my anger and determination for change, is further evidenced by the huge numbers who have sought a postal ballot.

Where they decide to do mark their crosses this week will in large part dictate the outcome of this election. Postal votes are more crucial than ever before.

While in most of our elections, we get a single ballot paper, in the Scottish Parliament elections there are two.

The first of these, purple in colour, lists the candidates for the local constituency. The second, which is a peach colour, is the regional party list vote containing party names rather than those of individual candidates.

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The peach ballot paper is your secret weapon to block a nationalist majority. The strongest party to do this are my Scottish Conservatives. Put simply, Labour cannot be trusted to stand up to the SNP and the Lib Dems are a spent force.

It is therefore vital for all pro-Union voters to give their second vote to the Scottish Conservatives in this election. If they do not, then the only winners will be the SNP.

Denying them a majority in Holyrood will not make the SNP go away quietly but through smart voting we can derail the nationalist juggernaut.

Instead, we can choose a Scottish Parliament focused on recovery and rebuilding our country, not ripping us apart.

Douglas Ross is MP for Moray, leader of the Scottish Conservatives and a candidate for the Highlands & Islands regional list in the Scottish Parliament election

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