Ruth Davidson: ‘Scots do not want a referendum’

Media captionRuth Davidson says the SNP does not speak for Scotland

The Scottish Conservative leader has said the majority of Scots do not want a second independence referendum.

Ruth Davidson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Nicola Sturgeon’s call for such a vote was “not the will of the Scottish people”.

She said: “The SNP is not Scotland, they are acting against the majority wishes of the people of Scotland.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scottish voters had the right to a choice on the country’s future

Ms Davidson was speaking six days after Scotland’s first minister announced she wished to hold another independence referendum in autumn 2018 or spring 2019 once the terms of the UK’s Brexit deal “became known”.

Nicola Sturgeon said Scottish voters should then be given a choice about the country’s future direction.

But Ms Davidson cited recent opinion polls suggesting that a majority of Scots do not want another referendum to take place in the next few years.

She said: “I don’t think you can have an independence referendum again if you don’t have public consent for it, and the people of Scotland don’t want this.

“We see another poll today, to add to the many dozen that we’ve seen since June of last year, that show that the majority of people in Scotland don’t want this.”

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EPA

Image caption

Nicola Sturgeon told the SNP spring conference on Saturday that a referendum would take place

Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated that the UK government will refuse to allow another referendum in the SNP’s preferred timescale, arguing that “now is not the time” with Brexit negotiations due to start shortly.

Ms Davidson said: “There are people right across Scotland, many, many thousands of them, that are so thankful for the prime minister to say let’s take a pause on this.”

She also said it was “astonishing” that the SNP had not given more details of its independence plan during its spring conference in Aberdeen.

“We have asked basic questions on things like currency, on things like a central bank, on things like whether we would even rejoin Europe as a full member, and Nicola Sturgeon seems unable to commit to that,” she said.

Timescale negotiations

The SNP’s 2016 manifesto said the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there was “a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”.

Scottish voters backed remaining in the EU by 62% to 38% in the Brexit vote last June.

Nicola Sturgeon insisted Scottish voters had the right to make a choice on the country’s future “when the terms of Brexit are clear but before it’s too late”.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston programme, she said her preferred timescale for an independence vote could change if the Brexit negotiations took longer than expected but insisted it would be “unreasonable” to push it as far back as 2021.

She said: “If she’s [Theresa May] talking in the spring of 2019, a bit later perhaps than I was suggesting, there may be some room for discussion around that.

“But it seems to me to be just fundamentally unfair for a UK government, with Brexit having sunk the ship, trying to puncture Scotland’s lifeboat as well.”

‘Change is coming’

She said her suggested timing was based on comments by Theresa May and Brexit Secretary David Davis about the likely timetable for the Brexit process.

“Change is coming. This is about having a choice over the type of change and I think we should have that choice before Scotland is taken out of the EU and a long period of time elapses, making it much harder for Scotland to try to negotiate a different relationship with Europe,” she said.

Asked if she wanted an independent Scotland to be a full member of the European Union, she said: “The minimum for Scotland is to be within the single market, it’s what I think makes sense for the UK as well if it’s out of the EU – but my preference is for an independent Scotland to be in the EU.”

The Scottish Parliament will debate the issue of a new referendum on Monday and Tuesday.

While the SNP does not have an overall majority, the Scottish Greens have said they will back the the transfer of powers from Westminster that would allow such a vote to be held.

Scottish Greens co-convener said his party’s position on that issue was decided at its conference in October.

He was challenged on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme on whether his party had a mandate for a second referendum as its 2016 manifesto said a new vote should “come about by the will of the people”.

He said: “A political party in opposition obviously has to look at its policy in terms of what is happening around the world and in June last year the world changed around us.

“Our political party debated how we should respond to this. Our members voted in favour of a motion… calling for a Section 30 order.”

Ruth Davidson: ‘Scots do not want a referendum’

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