Tory leadership candidate Jackson Carlaw accuses rivals of appeasing Salmond

TORY MSP Jackson Carlaw launched his campaign to lead the party in Scotland with a demand for an early referendum on independence and a suggestion that supporters of more powers for Holyrood want to “appease” nationalism.

The West of Scotland MSP opened his campaign to replace Annabel Goldie with a slogan of “a strong Scotland in a Great Britain” at a launch event in Glasgow yesterday, where he criticised the policies of the retiring leader and his current rival for the leadership, Murdo Fraser.

Mr Carlaw, the Scottish Tory transport spokesman, wants an independence referendum before any further moves to hand more responsibilities to the Scottish Parliament beyond the Scotland Act, which is set to extend Holyrood’s tax-raising powers.

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There was also a thinly veiled attack on the campaign theme of Mr Fraser, who has described his vision of greater powers for the Parliament as “new Unionism”.

Mr Carlaw said: “The problem with new Unionism is that is sounds like New Labour.”

He criticised the decision of Miss Goldie to back further tax powers for the Scottish Parliament, claiming they were designed “in the first instance to appease arguments for separation, rather than because they improve the government of Scotland”.

Mr Carlaw, when asked by The Scotsman about the comments, said that the current leadership had been “misguided” by not backing a referendum and allowing Alex Salmond to put forward a “list of demands” and that this could be “characterised as seeking to appease nationalism”.

Mr Carlaw said although the Scotland Act was now going to go through, he was opposed to plans to give the Parliament much more say on income tax levels in Scotland.

He said: “I’m not persuaded that the transfer of fiscal powers will prove to be practical.”

He also set out demands for a new Act of Constitutional Settlement following any independence referendum.

He said: “I want to end the prospect of Scotland enduring a series of neverending referendums by enacting a new Act of Constitutional Settlement, which would secure the future of the Union while setting out a process within which future discussions on legislative responsibility can be conducted and resolved.”

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Mr Carlaw is one of two Tory MSPs to have declared their leadership bid, with the other confirmed candidate, Mr Fraser, set to unveil his plans at a campaign launch on Monday, with a pledge to “kill independence” and “break the SNP”.

A source from Mr Fraser’s campaign dismissed Mr Carlaw’s claims about appeasement and said the West of Scotland MSP was “not the right man to lead a Tory recovery” in Scotland.

Ruth Davidson, the newly elected Tory list MSP for Glasgow, is also widely expected to stand for the post.