Douglas Ross has called on supporters of rival pro-UK parties to back the Scottish Conservatives in next week’s Holyrood election and prevent Scotland “sleepwalking” towards a second independence referendum.
The Conservative leader said there is a “very real” danger the May 6 ballot could result in the SNP securing a majority of seats at the Scottish Parliament – with pro-independence parties winning a “supermajority”.
He said such a result could see a second vote on Scotland’s position in the UK take place “early in the next Parliament”.
To stop that happening, Mr Ross urged supporters of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the smaller unionist parties to back the Scottish Conservatives – even if they do not approve of Boris Johnson and have never voted Tory before.
The Prime Minister has come under fire in recent days over alleged remarks on coronavirus lockdowns and the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
In a speech in Coldstream, just a few hundred yards from the border between Scotland and England, Mr Ross told voters: “This election is more important than what you think about individuals and parties.
“Governments both at Holyrood and Westminster, first ministers and prime ministers can change.”
However he said a vote for independence would be “irreversible”, and he warned it would “crush our economic recovery”.
He said Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are currently “on course to achieve that, for winning a majority and ending the union”.
Mr Ross argued: “We need to stand up to them in the national interest, to stop a second independence referendum and secure our recovery.”
He said the Tories are the only party capable of stopping the SNP, claiming Scottish Labour are “more interested in cosying up to the nationalists than taking them on”, while he branded the Liberal Democrats a “spent force in our politics”.
Mr Ross added: “Backed by the Greens and Alex Salmond’s Alba Party, we will face a nationalist supermajority intent on hijacking the Scottish Parliament for the sole purpose of delivering a second independence referendum.”
The issue is “too important for us to sleepwalk into”, Mr Ross said, as he warned “hard-line” nationalists see the election as “their big opportunity”.
Despite a poll on Thursday suggesting support for the SNP and independence has dropped, Mr Ross said: “The SNP are one week away from winning total unchecked control of the Scottish Parliament.
“From being able to push their agenda without restraint. And we know that their priority is holding a second independence referendum. Making a fresh attempt to rip apart the United Kingdom.”
He argued Scotland has benefited from the UK Government’s furlough scheme during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as from “our world leading vaccination programme”.
With the UN Cop26 summit due to take place in Glasgow this November, he insisted Scotland could be at the forefront of action to tackle climate change.
But he warned: “The SNP would put all that at risk, right away. They are in denial about the vaccine programme, the furlough scheme, and the strength that we have from remaining united.”
Mr Ross warned a majority for the SNP would see Scotland “move straight from a Scottish Parliament election campaign into a second referendum campaign” – taking focus away from the coronavirus recovery.
His message to voters was clear: “If we want the UK to continue then we need to vote for it.
“We need to make it totally clear that we believe that a referendum is the wrong priority for our country.”
He said opinion polls show “more than half of our country still do not support independence and that even more do not want a referendum on Sturgeon’s timetable”.
Mr Ross continued: “We all need to come together, to unite behind one campaign strong enough to win seats across the country and oppose the SNP under any circumstances.
“Just like in 2014, we need to put political differences aside and say no again.
“This is the election for making the anti-referendum, pro-UK majority in Scotland count.
“For putting our normal party political differences aside in the national interest.
“To secure our recovery and our victory from the 2014 referendum.”
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