Tim Farron: Extremism lies beneath surface of SNP

Tim Farron was campaigning in Edinburgh today
Tim Farron was campaigning in Edinburgh today
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Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has said extremism lies beneath the surface of the SNP as he accused a leading local election candidate of “doing a Trump”.

He also hit out at the Scottish Conservatives, calling on Ruth Davidson to “stand up to Theresa May” on the so-called rape clause in the UK Government’s welfare reforms and saying failure to do so risks making herself look “weak”.

Mr Farron visited Edinburgh today as his party launched its city manifesto for the council elections next month.

Joining the campaign trail by speaking to locals in the city’s Stockbridge area, he said the election drive is going “amazingly well” and he predicted gains for the Lib Dems across the country and particularly in Edinburgh.

He criticised comments made by Edinburgh City Council’s SNP group leader Frank Ross suggesting pro-Union parties only call themselves “Scottish” as a branding exercise to win votes.

He said Mr Ross was “doing a Trump”, and added: “This just underlines the extremism that is beneath the surface within the SNP and the intolerance, frankly. What you want is a more inclusive and diverse council.”

Mr Farron said Scotland had been “trailblazers” for a move towards heated and personal abuse, particularly online.

He added: “It’s the danger of ‘small-n’ nationalism of any kind and identity politics that people believe that those on the other side are somehow morally worse than them.”

He said politics is undermined when people sink to that level.

Mr Farron added that he is “disappointed” by Scottish Conservative leader Ms Davidson’s handling of increasing pressure over the so-called rape clause.

The policy requires women claiming tax credits for a third or subsequent child to state that they became pregnant as a result of rape or while in a coercive relationship.

Ms Davidson has faced calls from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to confront Theresa May on the issue and make a personal statement on the controversial policy.

Mr Farron said: “I’m disappointed in Ruth. The problem is either she isn’t the decent person I suspected she might be or she’s really quite weak and the Scottish party is being run by a Conservative Government at Westminster and they take no notice of Ruth Davidson.

“That’s why she needs to stand up to Theresa May, if she believes Theresa May is wrong she needs to say so and if she can’t persuade her quietly she needs to object noisily.”

The Lib Dem leader also backed Mrs May stance that now is the wrong time for another vote on Scotland leaving the UK and accused of using Brexit.

"This is about the Scottish National Party taking advantage of a chaos that is enveloping Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom which is the consequence of the Conservative Government's choices," he said.

Referring to the 2014 referendum result, he said: "We need to respect the will of the people of Scotland which was very clear 55%-45% on the basis of a prospectus that, to be fair to the SNP, was very clear.

"It wasn't like the lie on the side of the bus that we dealt with in regard to Brexit it, was actually a very clear prospectus. It was rejected.

"And it's very clear to me that the SNP were delighted by the outcome of the Brexit referendum because it gave them an opportunity to have another go at the thing that they're most obsessed about and I don't think we should do anything to encourage that."

Mr Farron said the SNP no longer had a mandate for another referendum after losing its Holyrood majority last year.

He added: "My sense, though, is that this is not the time for another referendum. If you believe passionately that Scotland should be independent, I totally respect that. There may a time in the future that could be discussed again.

"It's just a bit transparent. We have this existential crisis almost in the United Kingdom in every part of it when it comes to our relationship with the rest of Europe. The impact it's going to have on our significance as a country, as a collection of nations, our peace and security potentially and in terms of our prosperity.

"To undermine an effort which we're trying to get behind, to give people the chance to remain in European Union through a referendum on the deal - to undermine that, to pursue the SNP obsession is damaging to Scotland as well as the rest of the United Kingdom. We're not having any truck with that."