Ruth Davidson draws Tory “line in the sand”

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by a Newsnet reporter

Yesterday Scottish Conservative leadership candidate Ruth Davidson officially launched her bid to replace Annabel Goldie.  Ms Davidson announced that should she win the leadership post, she would “draw a line in the sand” on future discussions on Scotland’s contitutional status within the UK.  In her view the Scotland Bill which is currently passing through Westminster was the final and definitive statement on Scotland’s self-government.  

Ms Davidson’s main rival for the leadership, Murdo Fraser, has not ruled out seeking further tax raising powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Davidson said: “The Scotland Bill currently going through Westminster is the line in the sand.

“The time for arguing about the powers the people want is over.  It’s time now to use the powers that we have.”

Ms Davidson said that the main focus of the party should be to resist any further moves towards self-government for Scotland describing the tax-raising powers in the Scotland Bill as a one-off “MOT” for Holyrood.  

“I believe the United Kingdom is a force for good in the world. I will make that positive case for the Union and together we will win as we have right on our side,” Miss Davidson said.

“No halfway house, no second question, no march to fiscal autonomy.  When the referendum is done and Scotland in the Union has won the day, let that be an end to it.”

Ms Davidson did not explain how she intended to prevent the Scottish Government from holding a referendum with a second question, given that the Government enjoys an absolute majority in Holyrood.  

Ms Davidson praised the introduction of the controversial ‘free schools’ in England, backing such a move for Scotland saying: “I would love to see more tailored ability for pupils.  I don’t believe local authorities should be de facto providers of education.”

Speaking about her rival’s plan to ‘detoxify’ the Conservatives by relaunching the party under a new name and logo, Ms Davidson said: “I have no interest in change for its own sake.  We could spend the next 12 months discussing the internal machinations of the party.

“We could tie ourselves in knots. Alex Salmond would love that.  Real change for the Scottish Conservatives won’t come from a new name … Under my leadership, there will be no existential crisis, no wringing of hands.  Instead I want people to call themselves Scottish, Conservative and Unionist.”

However Ms Davidson conceded that it would take “at least a decade” before the Scottish Conservatives were electorally strong enough to form part of a coalition Scottish government.  

Ms Davidson’s campaign has provoked criticism from certain quarters of the party on the grounds of her young age, at 32 she would be the youngest leader in the party’s recent history, and her political inexperience.  Ms Davidson was first elected to the Scottish Parliament  in May as a list member for Glasgow.  

However the strongly negative response from parts of the grass roots of the party to rival Murdo Fraser’s strategy of ‘rebranding’ the party has given Ms Davidson’s bid a strong boost.  She recently attracted the public support of the party’s major private donor, Sir Jack Harvie.