THE Scottish Tories will hit the Holyrood election campaign trail with a spring in their step and pledge to be the distinctive voice of the majority of Scots who want to remain in the UK, according to their leader Ruth Davidson.
The UK Conservatives meet in Manchester today for the start of their first autumn conference under a Conservative majority since 1996 and Davidson will deliver a speech at a fringe event with an optimistic message to delegates.
The Scottish Conservatives will contest the Holyrood election in May 2016 with a new generation of candidates after the retiral and withdrawal of many of its sitting MSPs.
Davidson said they had been invigorated by the No vote in the independence referendum and a general election where they held on to their only Scottish seat, slightly increased their tally of Scottish votes and saw their party sweep into majority government at Westminster. Davidson is expected to say: “We are going into the Scottish Parliament elections with a spring in our step, and that’s partly because of the two campaigns we’ve just come through.
“During those, we looked like we were the only pro- Union party who were actually enjoying themselves and knew what we were talking about.
“People saw us fighting for something we believed in, that we really meant, and they sat up and took notice.
“After years of commentators writing us off, those two campaigns have put a sense of belief back in the Scottish Conservative soul.
“When I say I am optimistic about our chances next year, it is the new candidates I see around me who give me that confidence.
“It is a new generation of Conservatives who look and sound like the Scotland they want to serve.
“From business, the professions, academia, the public and charitable sectors, we have people from all backgrounds wanting to bring their experience to Holyrood.
“Many of them cut their campaigning teeth this year with the general election and they are motivated, energised and ready to hit the streets.
“We are ready and ahead of the pack. The message is simple – and it can be boiled down to two sentences. It’s that we, the Scottish Conservatives, are the distinctive voice of the two million Scots who want to stay part of the UK.
“And that we, the Scottish Conservatives, are the distinctive Scottish voice that will stand up for families wanting to get by and get on. We will be very, very clear with voters ahead of next May.”
On the eve of the conference, the foreign secretary warned yesterday that Britain will vote to reject a new deal with Brussels unless the European Union agrees to “substantial” permanent reforms.
Philip Hammond said the British public would deliver “a raspberry” to the government if David Cameron’s efforts to renegotiate the relationship with the EU did not secure “robust” changes.
Hammond and business secretary Sajid Javid stressed that the prime minister had ruled nothing out – indicating he could recommend a British exit from the EU if he failed to secure key reforms.