Ruth Davidson reveals the Tories still do Westminster’s bidding

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by a Newsnet reporter

New Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has confirmed that she will not urge David Cameron to alter the Scotland Bill in order to reflect Scottish public opinion.

Confirmation that the Tories new Holyrood leader will bow to London on the constitution emerged after she met with party boss David Cameron in Downing Street yesterday.  The meeting was Ms Davidson’s first official act as leader.

Following the meeting Mr Cameron’s office issued a statement reiterating the Government’s support for the Scotland Bill.

Mr Cameron believes that the proposals within the Bill are sufficient to meet Scottish demands for greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, despite the fact that many within the Unionist camp feel the Calman proposals do not go far enough.

Mr Cameron said: “I am proud that it is the UK Government which is enacting a new Scotland Bill which will transfer significant extra powers to Holyrood and place the responsibility for raising billions of pounds of public spending in the hands of the Scottish Parliament.

“This will meet the demands of the Scottish people for more say over how Scotland is run and clear the way for a straightforward and clear-cut referendum on ‘yes or no’ to Scotland in Britain. I pledge myself to campaign to keep our United Kingdom and challenge Alex Salmond to set the date and to agree the question now.”

Speaking to the press after the meeting Ms Davidson stressed her pleasure in meeting the Prime Minister and signalled that she would not adopt any policy positions which Mr Cameron might disapprove of.

Although there is division within the Coalition on the question of Scottish self-government, the Liberal Democrats announced earlier this week plans for “Home Rule”, which would go beyond the original Calman recommendations, Ms Davidson stated that she had a mandate to speak for Scotland, claiming that the Coalition parties received more votes in Scotland at the UK general election than the SNP did in their historic victory in May.  

The SNP immediately leapt on Ms Davidson’s claim, and issued a statement pointing out that the SNP received 902,915 votes in May 2011, 45.4% of the popular vote, whereas in May 2010 the Conservatives and Lib Dems together received a total of 878,326 votes, or 35.6%.  

Ms Davidson implied that she supported moves for Westminster to seize control of the timing and question of a referendum on Scotland’s place within the UK, a position taken by Michael Forsyth, a prominent supporter of Ms Davidson’s leadership bid.  She claimed that the democratically elected majority Scottish government may “rig” the vote and that this would not be tolerated.  She dismissed support for greater Scottish autonomy as “nationalist shennanigans”.

In her statement Ms Davidson said: “It was a pleasure to meet the Prime Minister again today to discuss our shared agenda of moving our party and Scotland forward.

“We recognise that the parties of the UK coalition Government secured more votes in Scotland than those who backed Alex Salmond for First Minister in May, and that the SNP does not hold the only mandate to speak for Scotland.

“The UK Government has a legitimate voice in standing up to the nationalist shenanigans.  We agreed that Alex Salmond’s uncertainty and dither over a referendum is not in Scotland’s best interests. He must not be allowed to rig the referendum. Our country needs certainty and stability.”

Commenting on the statement, SNP MSP Derek MacKay said:

“This is a real blunder by Ruth Davidson, continuing her bad start as the new Tory leader in Scotland.

“After talking big about David Cameron coming to Scotland and not being her leader, Ruth Davidson’s first act is a day trip to London where David Cameron is her boss, thus revealing the truth about Ruth’s leadership – the Tories remain the same London-led party, and they will continue to be rejected by the people of Scotland.

“She has also been caught out in a clear statistical fiddle.  Far more people voted for the SNP this year than voted for the coalition parties at the UK General Election last year, and we also got a much higher share of the vote than these two parties combined – which came third and fourth in Scotland last year, behind the SNP.  If Ruth cannot tell the truth about the dismal electoral state of the Tories in Scotland, and their Lib Dem hangers on, then she clearly doesn’t appreciate the scale of the challenge facing her – which at least Murdo Fraser showed an appreciation of.

“The inconvenient truth for the Tories is that the referendum, which will be held in the second half of this parliament, is a matter for Holyrood to scrutinise and deliver – not Westminster; it is part of the resounding Scottish democratic mandate achieved by the SNP in May.  If the Tories and other Westminster parties have difficulty grasping that very basic concept, it is a good illustration of why they are so badly out of touch with the aspirations of the people of Scotland.

“The SNP Government have always made it clear that we are entirely willing to include a ‘devo-max’ option in the referendum, as reflected on page 3 of our manifesto.  And a majority for independence on a straight Yes or No question will deliver independence – according to the democratic wishes of the people – and we are confident of success in securing a Yes vote.

“We know from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey that a strong majority, 74 per cent, of people believe that the Scottish Government should have the most influence over how Scotland is run, compared with just 16 per cent who think it ought to be the UK Government.

“Just days into Ruth Davidson’s new leadership, the Tories continue to be on the wrong side of the argument in Scotland.”