Ruth Davidson made an audacious pitch to be the next First Minister and pledged she would put the Scottish Conservatives in a position to win the next Holyrood election.
Building on her party’s strong performance in Scottish elections earlier this year, the Edinburgh Central MSP said the next phase of her leadership would seek to turn the Tories into an alternative party for government.
To a rapturous reception at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, she accused the SNP of not having a strategy for Brexit and not knowing why it was seeking a new independence referendum.
Ms Davidson claimed the SNP “constantly seeks conflict” while the First Minister is pursuing the wrong approach by reaching for “Salmond’s greatest hits from her CD collection”.
She said there was a need to show Scotland is “open for business” and said that if she was First Minister, she would be organising meetings with European leaders to push the country’s interests.
She renewed calls for the Scottish Government to scrap its controversial named-person scheme, and said the SNP administration should instead focus on targeted support for families who are struggling to cope.
Speaking at a fringe event, Ms Davidson said: “I say to the First Minster, please, we have had enough of this megaphone diplomacy.
“Instead of picking fights with the UK Government, why not just pick up the phone a bit more often and she might find that you agree about some things?
“For our Scottish Government, the starting point shouldn’t be how best to engineer a political turf war between London and Edinburgh, the starting point should be to examine the interests of our industries, universities, rural areas and to work out how to protect and promote those interests.”
Rejecting the case for a second independence referendum, she said: “Frankly Nicola Sturgeon needs to take the leader of the SNP hat off for a bit and start being the First Minister for the whole of Scotland because we need her to step up, right now.
“The questions that Brexit throws up, and there are many questions, are not answered by leaving another union we’ve been in three centuries, that we have built together, that we helped grow together, that we have ownership of, that encourages and encompasses our closest neighbours, our biggest trading partners and our dearest friends.”