Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has launched his party’s manifesto by urging voters to ‘rediscover the Better Together spirit’.
Opposition to a second independence referendum was again front and centre of the party’s Holyrood manifesto launch in Aberdeen, as the starting gun was fired on the election campaign in Scotland.
However, Mr Ross lacks the support of Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who has already ruled out joining a “unionist coalition” to take on the SNP, amid exclusive polling by Survation for us, which puts the Tories in third place behind Labour.
The Scottish Conservative leader called on voters to “rediscover that Better Together spirit” to defeat the SNP, who are predicted to win an overall majority, according to our new poll released on Thursday.
‘I’m proud of that’
Speaking during a press conference to journalists, Mr Ross said he was “not ashamed of Better Together”.
He added: “I campaigned in 2014 with members of the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party and with members of no political affiliation at all and we won.
“It was by coming together, uniting behind that message that we defeated the SNP and their plans to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK in 2014.
“I’m not ashamed by that; I’m proud of that. But it does seem from the reaction of the Scottish Labour Party that they are ashamed, they don’t want to work with pro-UK parties to stop the SNP, to get our focus off a referendum and back on the recovery.”
The Scottish Conservative leader also said he was “disappointed” by Mr Sarwar’s refusal to work together but that he would “continue to hold that olive branch” to work together in a bid to defeat the SNP.
Dual mandate row
The Moray MP confirmed he will continue as MP for Moray, if elected as an MSP in May for the Highlands and Islands region, amid criticism from SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.
He said dual mandates were “not new”, adding the SNP “have history with a former MP who was an MSP, party leader and First Minister” in the form of Alex Salmond.
Mr Ross, who revealed he would not stand down if his party comes third in the Holyrood election, said he would follow in the footsteps of previous politicians in this position and donate his MSP salary to charity.
He said: “That was the SNP policy up until a few months ago when, for their own reasons, they decided to not allow people to have dual mandates.”
In his speech, Mr Ross said “places like Aberdeen, the north-east and small towns all over Scotland would be left behind because with a majority, the SNP don’t need to listen to them”.
When asked about how his party would support city centres, in the wake of an announcement by retailing giant John Lewis that it plans to close its Aberdeen store, Mr Ross claimed the north-east is an area that has been “ignored” by the SNP.
He said: “They’ve let down the north-east with their focus on the central belt.
“The news about John Lewis closing its doors in Aberdeen is devastating for the area, for the 265 people that are employed in the store here.
“I know our excellent council co-leader, Douglas Lumsden, has been working hard to urge John Lewis to reconsider their decision.
“But ultimately it comes down to making Aberdeen city centre an attractive place for businesses to come to and we’ve seen from numerous SNP policies that they have not made the north-east of Scotland an attractive place for businesses to come to and that’s put jobs at risk.”