Tories to launch new anti-independence campaign

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By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP have criticised the Tory party for their inability to offer anything new to the people of Scotland in their latest anti-independence campaign.  Led by Ruth Davidson – whose popularity amongst the Tories has plummeted over 75 points to an approval score of just 4.8% – a new campaign called ‘Conservative Friends of the Union’ will be launched on Friday at the Conservative conference in Troon.

The launch of the Conservative campaign puts them at the forefront of the Unionist No campaign.  Labour remains without a coherent strategy on the constitution and there  has been no clarity from the self-described “party of devolution” on what future devolution actually means, with some in the party calling for ‘devo max’ or ‘devo plus’ and others such as Johann Lamont refusing to consider the transfer of extra tax powers such as corporation tax.  Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats promise a commission to discuss extra powers for Scotland, but insist that this discussion can only begin after a No vote in the independence referendum.  

Earlier this month in a speech in Aberdeen, Ms Davidson promised to deliver “real devolution”, saying that this could be achieved if Scotland copied Conservative policies being introduced south of the Border in education, housing and health.  According to Ms Davidson these policies would “put choice into the hands of Scotland’s people and give them the power to shape their own lives”.

The Conservative led reforms to the NHS in England have sparked controversy.  Sustained opposition from the main professional bodies representing doctors and other health professionals as well as the main trade unions and voluntary organisations have forced more than 1000 amendments to the UK government’s plans, which would see greater private sector involvement in the NHS in England.

During her election campaign for party leader last year, Ms Davidson described the discredited Scotland Bill as a “line in the sand”.  The Scottish Conservative leader believes Scottish self-government to mean that Scotland should adopt policies decided by the Conservatives in Westminster and sees no need for extra powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Despite constant calls for “clarity” from the anti-independence parties on what independence would mean, the new Conservative campaign highlights the incoherence and lack of clarity of the anti-independence campaign.  Scots voters face being presented with at several different versions of the No campaign, each making different promises.  There are few signs of a united No campaign making a clear commitment to Scotland’s voters about the shape of Scotland’s future within the Union.

The risk for the No campaign is that they could be seen as asking Scots voters to sign a blank cheque.  Without a single clear proposal from the Unionist camp, even if concrete plans finally emerge from each of the anti-independence parties, the winning version of Scotland’s future within the Union will be decided by UK-wide Westminster electoral arithmetic and not by Scottish voters in the referendum.  

As the Conservatives are the largest party across the UK, Scots could very well find themselves living under a Conservative version of “devolution”, even though the party enjoys little support in Scotland.  

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson has said that the people of Scotland will not be fooled by a party that have been continually rejected voters in Scotland.  The SNP for Cunninghame North said:

“The anti-independence campaign is openly Tory-led, and this will only serve to boost support for independence even further.

“The more the anti-independence campaign in Scotland is seen to be Tory-led, the stronger support for independence and a new relationship of equality between Scotland and England will become.

“Over 2,500 new members have joined the SNP since the New Year since the new year and David Cameron’s blundering intervention on the referendum debate.

“Tory policies foisted on Scotland from Westminster – cutting disability living allowance from the most vulnerable in society, dumping Trident nuclear weapons on Scotland, and cutting too far and too fast – illustrates why we need full powers in Scotland.

“The people of Scotland know far better than to be duped by a party that has continually failed this country, and been comprehensively rejected.

“Labour have fallen into the background on the debate on Scotland’s future, while the Lib Dems are increasingly irrelevant.  When the people of Scotland are given the choice in 2014 between home rule with independence or Tory rule from Westminster, I am confident they will trust themselves and vote Yes for independence.”