Ex-Tory MSP Michelle Ballantyne appointed Scottish leader of Reform UK
Ex-Tory MSP Michelle Ballantyne has been appointed Scottish leader of the newly-formed Reform UK party, it has been announced.
Ms Ballantyne, who still sits in the Scottish Parliament representing the South of Scotland, said on Monday the party would campaign at this May’s Holyrood election on a pro-union platform, as well as pushing for current lockdown restrictions to be eased.
The party has been founded from the ashes of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and is aimed at bringing a new right-of-centre alternative to the UK political landscape.
Reform UK leader Richard Tice said that Ms Ballantyne would lead a stand-alone party north of the Border called Reform UK Scotland.
Speaking on Monday, Ms Ballantyne hit out at SNP plans for a second referendum on independence as she was unveiled in the new role, insisting that her party will be “pro-Scotland and pro-the UK”.
“We believe it is simply the best choice for the people of these islands,” she said.
"It is the most successful union ever created. It has served us well for over 300 years and never so well as it has in the last few months as the combined power of the union has brought us financial aid and the first and fastest vaccination programme in Europe.
She added: “I would also say to those who dream of an independent Scotland that without an economically strong base and a public sector that is both affordable and effective, your dream will deliver chaos to the things that we all value.”
Ms Ballantyne has been a consistent critic of the hardline approach to lockdown. Scotland is currently in the grip of a second wave that has seen cases and hospital admissions reach a record high, but the South of Scotland MSP said a different strategy was needed.
"I believe we should have protected the vulnerable and allowed much of the economy to go forward,” she said.
"You can see quite clearly that lockdown hasn’t worked, the manner in which the virus behaves has meant we lost more people this week than last April.”
She insisted the “collateral damage” done as a result of lockdown measures had been “far, far greater” than the virus itself and was likely to push for a speedy return of schools.
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