ENGLISH support for the UK is crucial in the battle for Scottish hearts and minds in the independence referendum next year, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson told her party conference.
Recounting the referendum in Quebec in 1990, Ms Davidson told Tories that it was only the rest of Canada telling people in Quebec they wanted them to stay which led to victory for the Unionists.
Ms Davidson’s appeal received a standing ovation from a packed hall of Tory members as she spoke just ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron in one of the prime slots in the conference.
She said: “I know that many of you living in other parts of the UK won’t have a vote – but we all have a stake in the result, and we can all play a part in securing our country for the future. When Quebec went to the polls to decide whether to leave Canada in 1995, the result was exceptionally close. The secessionists were ahead until the day itself. There was just a one per cent margin of victory.”
And underlining the role she hopes English, Welsh and Northern Irish will play in the campaign, she said: “The single fact credited with making the difference between staying and going, between uniting the country or dividing the nation – was that the rest of Canada said: ‘We want you to stay’.”
Ms Davidson also warned that the fight was a struggle for the existence of the UK itself in a decision which would be irreversible. “This could be your last UK Conservative conference,” she said.
And she claimed that the SNP “would promise anything” offering £32 billion of uncosted sweeteners even though John Swinney’s leaked document showed that the country “would be worse off with independence”.
She said: “Far from being able to offer unlimited bonuses – Scotland would be worse off than the rest of the UK by 2016-17 and would start under independence laden with a debt and debt interest we’d struggle to pay.”