Jackson Carlaw: Scots must back pro-union parties to avoid indyref2

Scots must be ready to vote for pro-union parties in next year's Holyrood elections to avoid a second referendum on independence, new Tory leader Jackson Carlaw has said.

Jackson insists the Tories are not split on indyref2
Jackson insists the Tories are not split on indyref2

The Eastwood MSP, who won the Tory leadership on a permanent basis last week, also dismissed suggestions that the party was split on the issue.

Mr Carlaw defeated South of Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne with over 75% of the vote in the race to replace Ruth Davidson on Friday.

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Responding to reports that some senior Tories in Scotland could back a second referendum, he insisted that the party has been "very clear" where it stands on the constitutional question.

"There is no split in the party on this issue," he told BBC Scotland's Politics Scotland.

"We are united.

"We are totally opposed to a second independence referendum. We will not support a second independence referendum.

"But if people want to prevent it, they will have to vote for parties that oppose it. That will be absolutely critical next year."

Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold a second referendum - preferably this year - and the pro-independence SNP-Greens majority in the Scottish Parliament has endorsed this in a formal motion.

Carlaw won his party's leadership by taking a hard line in opposition to a second referendum, but suggested today that the decision could lie in the hands of Scottish voters at next year's Holyrood election.

"We are absolutely clear that we will oppose it - preventing it will actually require people to vote against it," he went on.

"I think that's a critical distinction. We will oppose a second independence referendum, we will not support a second independence referendum.

He added: "The polls show there's been a bit a shift towards independence as a result of, I think, a lot of the scare stories there have been about Brexit.

"Those same polls are absolutely clear, the people of Scotland do not want the next decade to be about more constitutional division and constitutional politics.

"So we're saying No on their behalf.

He added: "The rest of the United Kingdom has left the constitutional debate behind, Scotland can't afford to be left behind in a constitutional debate. We need to move and we need to make sure Scotland is a better place to live and work and is competing in the post (Brexit) economy that we will find challenging enough outside the European Union."