As SNP says Tories 'running scared'...
Davidson: ‘Scotland can prosper without independence’
Ruth Davidson: ‘we can take on the world’
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson today argued that the country does not need independence in order to thrive.
On her return to frontline politics she also used an address to her party’s conference in Aberdeen to urge compromise in the Brexit talks.
She told delegates that the conditions already exist for Scotland to build its economy and “take on the world”. She accused the SNP of blaming Westminster for holding Scotland back and argued that if the country wants to back its businesses there is “nothing stopping us”.
On the Brexit talks she said compromise was being treated as a dirty word. “But compromise we must. Because right now, the Brexit stalemate we see in the political classes serves no-one,” she said.
Her speech followed an address from the Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday who spoke in defence of the union, telling delegates that UK government has been able to support the oil sector through price fluctuations. “Being a United Kingdom, with the world’s fifth largest economy, gives us the broad shoulders to do that,” said Mrs May. “We have changed the tax regime to help save jobs and ensure businesses stay competitive.”
On the SNP’s call for another independence referendum the Prime Minister said: “ I have an old fashioned belief that in a democracy, if you put a question to the people – you should respect the answer they give you.
Theresa May: ‘old fashioned belief’
“That seems to be a pretty big difference between Nicola Sturgeon and me. Because not only does she want to re-run the independence referendum because she did not like the decision of the people of Scotland, she also wants to re-run the EU referendum because she did not like the decision of the people of the UK.”
UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday urged the party to pull together after it suffered its worst results in English local elections since 1995. The Conservatives lost 1,334 councillors in Thursday’s votes.
Mr Javid admitted voters had “issues of trust” over Brexit, and said the European elections would “be even more challenging”. In a rallying cry to delegates in Aberdeen, he said that “a divided party cannot unite a divided nation”.
The SNP today accused both Mrs May and Ms Davidson of “running scared” on the independence issue and said Ms Davidson’s admission in an interview that she was “ready to fight” showed that the issue will have to be put back to the people.
Keith Brown: Tory position is indefensible (pic: Terry Murden)
SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “Support for independence is on the rise, and the Tories can see that – which is what lies behind their utterly undemocratic move to block the people of Scotland having a say on their future.
“That is completely indefensible, and will prove to be an untenable position for the Tories.
“Ms Davidson is guilty of the most appalling double standards, having previously said that the UK Government ‘shouldn’t block’ an independence referendum.
“But her remarks that she is getting “ready to fight” the next independence referendum is a gaffe which gives the game away – she knows her party cannot indefinitely stand in the way of democracy.
Ms Davidson will see the conference as firing the starting gun on the 2021 Scottish election. The SNP won 63 seats in the last Scottish Parliament election and the Conservatives 31 – with opinion polls suggesting the SNP continues to hold a commanding lead ahead.
At today’s Conservative conference Ms Davidson said:
“If you believe in democracy, you don’t get to pick and choose which votes are upheld and which cast aside. Before we are nationalists or unionists, leavers or remainers, we need to be democrats. Seventeen and a half million people across the UK – including over a million in Scotland – voted to leave the EU. And it is only by respecting that vote that we can hope bring this country back together.
“I have said many times that I would happily never fight another constitutional referendum in my lifetime. Because binary choices push people into tribes. And complex questions of national and personal identity, of the structure of nations and the institutions on which they are built; of law, of trade, of terms and of treaties cannot be reduced to a single word – Yes or No, Leave or Remain. And, having been pushed into tribes, we act amazed when people become tribal and treat compromise as a dirty word.
“But compromise we must. Because right now, the Brexit stalemate we see in the political classes serves no-one. In yesterday’s local elections, we saw angry voters give both the Labour party and our party an almighty kicking. And no wonder – voters expect promises to be kept.
“The solution doesn’t lie in the trenches of one extreme or another – of overturning the referendum, or of crashing out with no deal. It lies in those colleagues currently round the table, taking the difficult first steps towards each other.
“So I say to the negotiating teams of our party and the labour party, who are currently locked in talks – get Brexit sorted, get a deal over the line and let Britain move on.
“Because if we thought yesterday’s results were a wake up call, just wait for the European elections on the 23 May.
“A vote the public was promised would never take place, to elect people to a parliament they were told we would already have left. You don’t have to be John Curtice to foresee what could happen.
“So let’s back the Prime Minister, let’s deliver what we promised and let’s come back together.
“At the election in 2021, here’s the choice that people will face. The SNP saying ‘we KNOW we’ve had 14 years, but give us another five’. Arguing that they can’t make things better without putting us all through another referendum first.
“So it’s always going to be the case that their focus is on delivering that, not delivering peoples’ priorities.
“I have a more positive view of Scotland’s future. I reject their mantra that says we have to have a break up before we can possibly hope to prosper. I don’t see Scotland as subjugated, put upon or as held back.
“Our message is that we can prosper now. That we can back our businesses, build up our institutions and give future generations the skills to take on all comers. That right here, right now, Scotland can take on the world. There’s nothing stopping us.
“So that’s the choice. Between an SNP that doesn’t believe we can thrive for years into the future. And my team – which wants to get on with building a better Scotland NOW. And behind that – there’s a more fundamental difference about the way we see our country.
“The SNP chant that they’re about Standing up for Scotland. Great election slogan. I just take issue with the premise.
“I don’t believe you’re standing up for Scotland by making people in Scotland out to be helpless. I don’t believe you’re standing up for Scotland by flying to America and telling them that your country is being held back. Nor by opening the curtains on a sunny day and spending your time searching the horizon for a dark cloud. Then blaming it on Westminster. I don’t believe we’re helpless. Nor that we’re being held back. And enough Nationalist dark clouds.
“I think standing up for Scotland is meaningless if you’re not standing up for the quality of life of the people of Scotland, who just want a government that puts their interests first for once.
“So as First Minister, I won’t use every engagement with the UK Government as a chance to sow division. I’ll use it as a chance to deliver better government for the people who live here. And I’ll make a firm guarantee now: If I am elected Scotland’s next First Minister, there will be no more constitutional games and no more referenda. We’ve had enough to last a lifetime.
“No more Scotland being a country that ‘might’ or ‘should’ or ‘could’ do things. I want to live in a country that ‘will’, that ‘shall’, that ‘can’ act, and can act right now.
“So we’re not fighting each other – but fighting for each other. We’ve got to get out of the trenches of the last decade Yes and No, Leave and Remain – and work together to create a better nation for us all. And we need to start now.”