Most people will understand why the Prime Minister is not campaigning in Scotland in the run-up to the Holyrood election, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has said.
The Tory MP defended Boris Johnson, saying the PM is focused on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, at the same time as he turned his fire on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over her “record of failure”.
The Conservatives warn that if the SNP leader spends the next five years focusing on an independence referendum, drug deaths in Scotland could reach 2,000 a year and violent crime could also increase.
Mr Ross unveiled a new campaign advertising van on Wednesday in the Glasgow Southside constituency Ms Sturgeon is contesting. The event took place outside a drug rehabilitation centre that the Tories said had closed two years ago.
Ms Sturgeon last week admitted during the STV leaders’ debate that her Government “took our eye off the ball” after drug deaths surged, though she said ministers had set out a package of measures to try and address the crisis.
Mr Ross said: “Every time Nicola Sturgeon pushes for another independence referendum and takes her eye off the ball, Scotland suffers.
“She will drag Scotland down and wreck our recovery from Covid if the SNP win a majority because her eyes will only be focused on independence.
“We’ve seen what happens when she takes her eye off the ball.
“Drug deaths have doubled on Nicola Sturgeon’s watch to the worst in Europe. When she’s pushing for another referendum, her eye will be off the ball again and we won’t be able to fix the broken system.
“Our schools have hit record lows in international league tables under the SNP. If the focus is on another referendum again, the current trend would see Scotland fall behind Spain, Hungary and Lithuania.
“Violent crime has increased every year that Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minister. It will hit record 22-year highs if she’s allowed to spend the next five years pushing for another referendum.
“An SNP majority hell-bent on another independence referendum would wreak havoc in our communities. The damage from five more years of distraction would be devastating.”
He said Ms Sturgeon is “seeking to be re-elected on her Government’s record and I think anyone looking at her Government’s record can see it is a record of failure for 14 years”.
He also said the coronavirus pandemic has “introduced many challenges to the election campaign”, adding it is “a campaign like no other because of the circumstances we are all living in”.
Mr Johnson will not be campaigning in Scotland ahead of the May 6 vote, but both UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey of the Liberal Democrat have travelled north.
Mr Ross said: “I think Ed Davey, who has MPs in just double figures and is not running the country, is in a slightly different situation from the Prime Minister, as is Keir Starmer as leader of the opposition.
“The Prime Minister is focusing on the UK’s efforts to tackle Covid-19 and our way out of this pandemic.
“The Prime Minister is continuing with the UK Government’s efforts to get on top of this virus, to see our country start to reopen again.
“The Prime Minister and I keep up to date with each other throughout the campaign and the fact that he physically won’t be visiting, I think most people understand because of the very different circumstances we face in this election, due to it being fought during a pandemic.”