By a Newsnet reporter
Prime Minister David Cameron addressed a thinly attended Scottish Tory Conference in Stirling on Friday, vowing to “fight every step of the way” to prevent Scotland becoming independent.
In a speech which concentrated heavily on British history Mr Cameron attempted to rouse the dwindling band of Scottish Tory party faithful, but failed to impress critics, with the SNP describing the speech as “a tissue of tedium and a farrago of fabrication”.
In an emotional appeal, the Prime Minister sought to highlight what he described as centuries of “shared endeavour” between Scotland and England, singling out the achievement made by British troops during the D-Day landings, the 69th anniversary of which took place this week, and the Olympics.
Mr Cameron said:
“Our United Kingdom has always been one of shared endeavour. Proud in our individual identities – but working together for a common good.
“We saw it when our soldiers fought together under one flag on the beaches of Normandy.
“We saw it when our doctors came together to build our NHS. We saw it in the scientific breakthroughs that we made together, from the television to penicillin.
“And we saw it last summer as athletes from around Britain – no matter where they were from – draped themselves in one flag.”
Mr Cameron assured his audience that Scotland was better off for being a part of the UK, but promised more austerity ahead and attempted to defend the Coalition’s swingeing cuts to the welfare and benefits system, which has seen many of the poorest and most vulnerable in the country bear the brunt of the financial difficulties caused by the near collapse of the financial sector.
However the Prime Minister’s speech was notably light on substantive commitments to Scotland. There was no mention of any possible extension of devolution.
The Scottish Conservative leadership had previously ruled out any discussion of devolution during the Conference, even though the party’s Scottish leader Ruth Davidson has set up a commission, headed by the notoriously anti-devolution Conservative peer Thomas Galbraith, known as Lord Strathclyde, to examine the devolution settlement. The party leadership has said that they prefer to wait until the Strathclyde commission has made its report.
Commenting on the speech, SNP MP Angus Robertson said:
“David Cameron’s speech alternated between a tissue of tedium and a farrago of fabrication.
“He added insult to injury by pretending that Tory policies are compassionate – people on the receiving end know that they are cruel and callous. The Tories stand for welfare cuts for vulnerable people and hard-working families – and tax cuts for millionaires.
“There is nothing remotely compassionate about the Tories’ austerity agenda and policies such as the Bedroom Tax.
“It is to Labour’s shame that they are supporting the power of a Westminster Tory government to impose policies on Scotland that the vast majority of people in Scotland – and 90% of Scottish MPs – voted against.
“As David Cameron’s speech made clear, Scotland faces a choice of two futures in next September’s referendum. It’s a choice between a fairer, more prosperous society with the powers of independence, where we get the government we vote for every time – or more cuts and austerity under a broken Westminster system that never sees Scotland’s needs as a priority.”
Meanwhile First Minister Alex Salmond renewed his call for a head to head debate between himself and the Tory leader. Mr Cameron has so far refused to consider a debate with the First Minister, claiming that the referendum debate is one which must take place between Scots.
Referring to a speech made by deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday, when she called for an independent Scotland and the remainder of the UK to have a relationship similar to that between the Nordic countries, Mr Salmond said:
“The people of Scotland want and deserve a quality debate on Scotland’s future – and Nicola Sturgeon’s positive speech about the relationship of equality we seek with our friends south of the Border stands in stark contrast to the fears and smears that are all we have heard from the No campaign so far.
“It is time for the No campaign to draw a line in the sand under their fears and smears about Scotland, and fulfil their pledge to pursue a positive campaign based on reality.”