Ruth Davidson told Scots they do not need to be a “dyed-in-the-wool Tory” to back her party as she bids to lead the opposition at Holyrood.
She urged people who have never supported her before to vote Conservative as she pledged she would “finally hold this SNP government’s feet to the fire”.
Former first minister Alex Salmond had previously vowed the SNP would hold Westminster’s “feet to the fire” as he stepped down after Yes campaigners lost the 2014 independence referendum.
The Scottish Conservative leader also accused Nicola Sturgeon of being a “rabble rouser for the SNP” rather than “first minister for all of Scotland” with her planned summer drive to boost support for leaving the UK.
Ms Sturgeon is to launch the SNP manifesto on Wednesday amid suggestions it will reserve the right to hold a second vote on independence if the majority of Scots back this.
Ms Davidson told Ms Sturgeon: “She signed a bilateral agreement between two governments, the Edinburgh Agreement between the UK Government and the Scottish Government. Her name is on that bit of paper that said she would respect the result (of the referendum).
“Launching a new campaign in the summer, that’s not respecting that clear result, that’s not being a first minister for the whole country, that’s being a rabble rouser for the SNP.
“I don’t think there is any excuse, material change of circumstances or whatever the reason is for holding another referendum in the next parliament.
“If the opposite result had happened in 2014, the idea the SNP would have allowed No voters a second referendum because the oil price had tanked and that was a material change in circumstances is laughable.”
With polls suggesting the SNP is on course for another majority term at Holyrood, and with support for Labour having slumped since the referendum, Ms Davidson is fighting for the Tories to be the second second-largest party in the Scottish Parliament after the May 5 election.
As she campaigned in Perth, she reached out to those who had previously rejected the Conservatives.
In a speech to Tory activists, she claimed “people who aren’t voting SNP, many of whom have never voted for us before, many who never once thought they’d consider it, but they’re weighing it up”.
She said these voters were “concerned about how dominant the SNP has become” but feel that “there isn’t much that can be done”.
“My message to these people is that something can be done. And they can be the ones to do it,” Ms Davidson said.
“As I criss-cross Scotland in this campaign, my message is the same. If you trust us with your vote – I will do that specific job for you. I will hold the SNP to account.”
To those who have not voted Conservative before, Ms Davidson said: “We’re not asking you to become a dyed-in-the-wool Tory. Frankly, I know most people out there aren’t going to sign up for that.
“What we’re saying is something needs to change and you can be the ones to change it. Trust me with your vote on this and I will work for you. That’s the job that I will do.”
She said afterwards: “I think people are responding to our message, particularly people who have never voted Conservative before and who find themselves in a place where they never even imagined they would consider us, but they are, because they don’t like the SNP to be unfettered, they think the Labour Party is in a bit of a mess right now.”
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