Conservatives in disarray as Scottish leader Davidson denies Cameron’s more powers pledge


By Martin Kelly
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has come under pressure to explain her party’s stance on further devolution for Scotland after denying UK PM David Cameron had suggested more powers could be devolved to Scotland if it rejected independence.
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell has written to Ms Davidson requesting that she clarify her comments, after she further confused her party’s position on more powers for the Scottish Parliament in an interview on Newsnight Scotland.

In the interview Ms Davidson denied the PM had offered more devolution of powers in the event of the No campaign triumphing in the independence referendum.

Quizzed by host Glenn Campbell on the Prime Minister’s new stance, Ms Davidson flatly denied he had said any such thing.

“But you both agree that there should be more devolution after a referendum if independence is defeated?” asked the BBC presenter.

“Well that is not what either of us said … we are about to get it [more powers], it is called the Scotland Bill.” Ms Davidson replied.

Asked if the Scotland Bill would be enough to meet demands for further devolution in Scotland the Scottish Tory leader replied “I think it could”.

The comments from Ms Davidson are in stark contrast to those of her leader Mr Cameron who, in a visit to Scotland to meet First Minister Alex Salmond, stated “When the referendum on independence is over, I am open to looking at how the devolved settlement can be improved further, and yes, that means considering what further powers could be devolved”

In the letter Mr Maxwell writes to Ms Davidson:

Previously you stated that The Scotland Bill represented “a line in the sand” with regard to more devolved powers.  Then, last week in Edinburgh, Prime Minister David Cameron raised the prospect of more powers being devolved to Scotland.

However, on Monday night, in your Newsnight interview, you once again referred to the Scotland Bill as being the only extension to powers you will consider. Obviously, the different positions stated by you and the Prime Minister are not compatible.

It would be helpful to the national debate if the people of Scotland had a clear idea of where you and your party stand on Scotland’s constitutional future. I would be grateful if you¸ as leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland, can give some clarity on this matter.

Mr Maxwell, who is a member of Holyrood’s Scotland Bill Committee said:

“Ms Davidson’s apparent reluctance to move from her “line in the sand” position over the Scotland Bill as the only possible concession to increasing devolved powers reveals just how panicked and unclear the Tories are over their stance on Scotland’s constitutional future.

“Who are Scottish voters to believe: the Prime Minister with his promises of ‘jam tomorrow’, or Ms Davidson with her refusal to even consider an improvement to the inadequate Scotland Bill?”

Mr Maxwell refuted claims made by Ms Davidson in the interview in which she claimed that the SNP had failed to answer questions on defence and the economy and added:

“This latest gaffe by the leader of the Tories in Scotland has only further stalled their efforts and shows that the anti-independence camp can’t get out of first gear.

“The problems are mounting up for the Tories and the anti-independence camp.  The SNP’s plans are well documented with half a million words now published putting forward a positive case for the people of Scotland to vote Yes for independence at the referendum in Autumn 2014.”

The confusion caused by Ms Davidson’s comments is the latest in a series of public statements that have appeared at odds with her party leaders in London. 

The former BBC Scotland presenter, who replaced Annabel Goldie as party head in Scotland, recently had to backtrack after describing the SNP’s proposed referendum question as “fair, decisive and legal” only to subsequently discover party bosses attacking the question claiming it was biased.

The comments from David Cameron were echoed by former Chancellor Alistair Darling who on Sunday conceded that the status quo was unsatisfactory.

“I don’t think anybody would argue that the status quo, what we have at the moment, is satisfactory.  It was fine in 1998, things have moved on, the constitution is always something you need to look at and see what’s best.” The Labour MP said.