Ross dismayed by rejection of pro-union coalition
Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar
UPDATED 28 March: Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been accused of “ignoring the elephant in the room” after rejecting calls to form a Unionist coalition against independence.
Tory leader Douglas Ross called on the main opposition parties to work together and said it was “naive in the extreme” to ignore the threat from the SNP and the Alba Party.
Mr Ross launched a unionist manifesto and asked all major pro-UK parties to back it, as a show of unity against what he sees as an increased threat of an independence.
He was responding to former SNP leader Alex Salmond’s claim that his new Alba party would create a “super-majority” for independence. He wants Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie to sign up to the manifesto in an echo of the Better Together campaign.
Mr Sarwar firmly rejected Mr Ross’s call while the LibDems campaign chairman Alistair Carmichael called the Tory leader “divisive”.
Mr Ross said: “They are ignoring the elephant in the room that while we will all agree that the focus has to be on our recovery from Covid-19 and rebuilding from the pandemic, we can’t do that while the nationalists are determined to take us through another divisive and damaging independence referendum.
“The threat of a Scottish Parliament focused entirely on breaking up the UK for the next five years, instead of on the essential task of rebuilding our country, is now very real,” said Mr Ross in correspondence with other opposition party leaders.
“We must meet this new threat with an equally strong response.”
He proposes a three-pronged manifesto that means a vote against a second independence referendum regardless of the result in May’s election, ruling out a coalition or confidence deal with any party which seeks to hold an independence referendum in the next Parliament, and agreeing to form a pro-UK, anti-referendum coalition if the opportunity arises.
“This manifesto can be the starting point for greater co-operation between pro-UK parties, nothing is off the table,” he said.
But in a firm rejection of Mr Ross’s appeal, the Labour leader said: “We deserve better than your desperate attempts to take us back to old arguments and the politics of the past.
“In case you hadn’t noticed Scotland is in the middle of a pandemic.
“This election is not some kind of game, it is about focussing on a national recovery.
“This election cannot be about an SNP psychodrama. It cannot be about Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond settling old scores. And it cannot be about your petty agenda of game playing.
“This election must be about the people of Scotland, their families and a national recovery.
“As you have recognised yourself, one of the largest threats to the Union is the leader of your own party.
“Scotland has had enough of divisive politics which you and Nicola Sturgeon share.
“Both you and the SNP want to waste time and energy on the imagined “conflicts that divide us.
“But in Scotland, child poverty has risen – and was rising before the pandemic hit.
“This is among countless issues where the blame lies at the feet of both your party in Westminster and the SNP at Holyrood.
“A heartbreaking example of how the obsession with past disagreements fails people today.
“Rather than entertain your latest desperate plea for attention, I am focusing our energy on what matters – guaranteeing a fairer recovery and a stronger Scotland.
“Scotland deserves a better government and – as your letter demonstrates – it deserves a better opposition.”