Nicola Sturgeon must “show her hand” on SNP plans to stage a second independence referendum after the Nationalist landslide victory in the general election, the Scottish Conservative leader has said.
Ruth Davidson said that a “new political dawn” had emerged in Scotland after the SNP took 56 of the country’s 59 seats and called for clarity over the constitutional issue.
Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has pledged to fight on despite his party suffering its worst election result north of the Border, which saw the former Scottish secretary lose his East Renfrewshire seat to the SNP’s Kirsten Oswald.
The rout of the Liberal Democrats also saw big names including former party leader Charles Kennedy, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and equalities minister Jo Swinson among the casualties.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted the result was “not about independence” but she has also refused to rule out a commitment to a second referendum being in her manifesto for next year’s Holyrood election. If the SNP includes it and repeats its sweeping victory from yesterday, it could mean another vote on Scotland leaving the UK within five years.
Yesterday Ms Davidson said: “We asked more than once during the campaign if she [Nicola Sturgeon] would set out when and if she was wanting to push for another referendum.
“We don’t want one, we’re a unionist party. We just had the longest, biggest discussion in our history about whether we should remain part of the United Kingdom when we voted by a clear majority to stay part of that United Kingdom just seven months ago.
“But it’s up to Nicola Sturgeon now to show her hand. She was coy before this election, she said that she didn’t want to talk about whether there would be a future referendum in future SNP manifestos.”
Ms Davidson spoke to David Cameron after the general election result and said the Prime Minister was committed to “bringing the country together”.
She added: “He recognises that the size of the task is great. He must seek to bring this country together – Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“He recognises, as I do, that Scotland has two governments and is committed to use his position as the head of the government in Westminster to bring greater power and responsibility to the one at Holyrood.”
She added: “Where others may question legitimacy or endeavour to sow grievance, he will act respectfully and in recognition of Scotland’s need for change.”
Ms Sturgeon said yesterday that another government cannot ignore the political earthquake which happened in Scotland, but continued to play down the prospect of another referendum.
She said: “Given that we are, unfortunately, facing another Conservative government, it’s all the more important that we’ve got a strong team of SNP MPs standing up for Scotland.
“The government at Westminster cannot ignore what has happened in Scotland; people have voted overwhelmingly for Scotland’s voice to be heard and for an end to austerity.”
She added: “This election wasn’t about independence.
“I don’t take any of the votes that were cast for the SNP yesterday as votes for independence. They were votes to make Scotland’s voice be heard more loudly.
“We will go to Westminster and seek to ensure that Westminster governments can’t ignore Scotland, that they can’t simply push aside the things that were voted for in Scotland.
“There has been an overwhelming vote for change in Scotland and our 56 MPs will carry that message to the heart of Westminster.
“When I published the SNP manifesto three weeks ago I said very explicitly that ending austerity was our number one priority. I accept that we are looking as if we’ve got a majority Conservative government, but nevertheless that [commitment] is what Scotland voted for yesterday and it’s what the SNP will champion in the House of Commons.”
Ms Sturgeon, who travelled to London yesterday to take part in the VE Day commemorations, said she was “looking forward to coming back to Scotland to meet up with our 56 MPs and start to consider how we do genuinely make Scotland’s voice heard”.
Mr Murphy said yesterday he was determined to carry on as leader of Scottish Labour and stand to be Scotland’s First Minister in next year’s Holyrood elections, despite a night of humiliation for his party.
He insisted that the five months he has spent in the job since replacing Johann Lamont was not enough to turn around years of decline.
“We had for too long lacked a clear message, a clear offer, and a continuity of leadership – five leaders in just seven short years,” he said.
“We didn’t have the time nor space to turn that round in that short period.
“Some have said it was an impossible task to turn around all those years of gradual decline in five short months. But it hurts nevertheless.”
And he stressed: “With less than a year till the Scottish Parliament elections we cannot afford another period of introspection. People need us to be what we’ve always been when we’re at our best, which is a voice for working people.”