Davidson promises more of the same in keynote conference speech

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By a Newsnet reporter

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson used her keynote speech at the Conservative conference in Troon to call on Lib Dem and Labour politicians to join her in a united stance against independence.  

However despite the long heralded claims of anti-independence politicians that they would campaign on the basis of a “positive case for the Union”, Ms Davidson’s speech was immediately criticised for its lack of a positive vision for Scotland within the UK and its failure to promise anything new to voters.

Ms Davidson set her party the goal to “reclaim our place as the voice, and party of choice, for mainstream Scotland”.  She spoke of her “love” for Scotland, and called for a united campaign to defeat independence.

The Tory leader said:  “When it comes to the very future of the country I love, I will not falter.

“As Conservatives, where we need to lead, we will lead.  Where we need to join, we will join.  And where we need to fight, we will not be found wanting.”

She continued: “Scotland expects us to put aside our differences and pull together for the common cause – to give a voice to the silent majority, to build a chorus across our nation.

“Today we stand on the brink of history.  The world is watching, this is our cause and we will not be found wanting.

“We will add our sound to the millions of voices declaring as one: A strong Scotland in a strong Britain.  Together for good.”

Ms Davidson called upon Labour and the Lib Dems to join with her in a campaign against independence, saying:

“I say to Johann Lamont and to Margaret Curran, to Willie Rennie and to Michael Moore, Scotland expects us to work together, and we are.  

“Scotland expects us to lead and we will.

“Scotland expects us to put aside our differences and pull together for the common cause – to give a voice to the silent majority, to build a chorus across our nation.”  

The new party leader then announced a number of reforms to the Scottish Conservatives, including a new logo, plans to boost party membership, and a review of policies.  She urged the party faithful to be more assertive, saying:

“We won’t get [voters’] support from hiding our light under a bushel, from saying nothing to offend, for apologising for being Conservatives.

“No more shy Tories, because there are dividing lines in politics and we must never be afraid to speak out.”

Ms Davidson said that the Scotland Bill would give new taxation and other powers to Holyrood.  She argued that the Scottish Parliament ought to focus its attention on the powers it already possessed and the powers detailed in the Scotland Bill.

However the Scots Tory leader did not comment on Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement, which he repeated on Friday at the conference, that he was “open-minded” about additional powers for Holyrood beyond those detailed in the Scotland Bill.  During her leadership campaign, Ms Davidson described the Scotland Bill as “a line in the sand”, a position which the Prime Minister’s comments have undermined.

Instead Ms Davidson announced that she would not compromise with the SNP, saying: “Our position is clear – we are foursquare for the Union.

“Scotland is better off in Britain and you don’t defend Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom by compromising with the forces of separatism.”

Ms Davidson also called for a single question on the referendum ballot paper, and ruled out a second question on more Holyrood powers.  She also claimed that delay in holding the referendum was creating uncertainty and damaging business.  Her comment came just a short time after global renewables giant Gamesa announced €150 million worth of investment in a new plant in Leith expected to create up to 800 jobs.

Commenting on Ruth Davidson’s speech to the Scottish Tory conference, SNP MSP Chic Brodie said Scotland deserves more than a short speech with little vision for Scotland.

The MSP for South Scotland said:

“This short speech failed to present anything new to Scottish voters. The so-called ‘positive case for the Union’ has fallen flat at the first hurdle – first we had Lord Trimble’s tasteless, ill-informed and ill-advised comments about Scotland, and now we have Ruth Davidson’s complete and utter failure to offer any new positive vision for our country.

“She also failed to say where she now stands on more powers for Scotland, which is perhaps no surprise after her ‘line in the sand’ comments about the Scotland Bill were swept away by David Cameron’s vague promises of ‘something else’ if people vote No to independence.

“But such vague promises of jam tomorrow from a Tory Prime Minister will only succeed in encouraging more Scots to vote Yes to independence, as will Ruth Davidson’s own recent comments that a No vote could be followed by Tory cuts to Scotland’s cash.

“As such, the comments Ms Davidson made in her speech that her party is a ‘new and invigorated’ one are simply false – they are the same old Tories, who cannot and should not be trusted with Scotland’s future.

“If a lacklustre speech with little vision for Scotland is the best the new leader of the Scottish Tories can do, the SNP is looking forward to even more people in Scotland opting for home rule with independence rather than Tory Westminster rule.

“The people of Scotland deserve much more than a short speech with little imagination for the future of their country.”