Ruth Davidson has said she will try to keep a second independence referendum off the table for a generation – suggesting another vote should not be considered for around 35 years.
The Scottish Conservative leader has signalled her intention to frustrate Nicola Sturgeon’s bid to hold a referendum between autumn next year and spring 2019 and kick the issue into the long grass.
This came to light when Davidson was asked if she thought indyref2 could be put off until beyond the 2021 Scottish election – a contest that will see the pro-Union parties attempt to return an anti-independence majority to Holyrood.
Davidson answered by referring to the Edinburgh Agreement, the deal between the UK and Scottish Government, which set up the 2014 referendum and decreed that parties should respect and uphold the result.
“When Nicola Sturgeon signed the Edinburgh Agreement and said she’d respect the result I believed her. She said it would be for a generation. We will endeavour to make sure that it is. This is something that is very much decided by the people of Scotland,” said Davidson.
When asked how long she thought “a generation” should be, Davidson said: “What was Alex Salmond’s definition? He said that between the ̓̓79 and 2014 referendum that was about a generation. That works for me.”
Davidson’s remark suggested she believed a generation should be defined as 35 years, although she did not quote Salmond accurately.
Before the 2014 referendum, Salmond had cited the 18-year gap between the first devolution referendum in 1979 and the second one of 1997, which saw the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.
He has since revised his opinion, arguing that the Brexit vote and the SNP’s post-referendum performances in elections are reasons for the SNP abandoning its “once in a generation” pledge.
Davidson said the UK Conservative election manifesto would reflect Theresa May’s position on the referendum. The Prime Minister has said the question should not be asked at a time when the outcome of Brexit negotiations and, therefore, the situation faced by an independent Scotland are unknown.
“The people of Scotland shouldn’t be asked to make a decision of that magnitude when we don’t know what the two options look like. We don’t know how Brexit is playing out and we don’t know what independence looks like and we shouldn’t be dragged back into a second independence referendum when the majority of Scots don’t want it.”
Deidre Brock, the SNP candidate for Edinburgh North and Leith, said: “Ruth Davidson is absolutely right that this is something that should be decided by the people of Scotland – which is exactly what we are proposing.
“But Ruth Davidson also said that Brexit would be a disaster for Scottish jobs and our economy – now she’s saying that we shouldn’t have the chance to avoid that. It’s only fair that Scotland gets a choice on its future once the terms of Brexit are clear. That should be a decision for Scotland, not Westminster Tories. This election is about protecting Scotland from the dangers of an unopposed Tory government at Westminster.”