Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has unveiled a new group to lead the charge against Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a second independence referendum following the Brexit vote.
A former UK ambassador to a number of European countries will sit on the group which also includes leading business figures, as well as MSPs who voted Remain and Leave.
It will examine how best to ensure Scotland manages both the risks and opportunities of its post-EU future – but as part of the UK.
Ms Davidson, MSP for Edinburgh Central, said in a keynote speech in London yesterday that the First Minister has used the outcome of the EU referendum to re-ignite the campaign for Scottish independence – and pledged to thwart this. The SNP leader has said a second referendum is “highly likely” after the Brexit vote and Scottish Government civil servants are drawing up the necessary legislation if she decides to call one.
But Ms Davidson said yesterday: “I think the Scottish Government has got it wrong in its response to the Brexit vote.
“The First Minister tried to use the vote to create a surge for independence. It hasn’t worked but I don’t think the SNP will stop trying.
“And sadly, in our judgement, the push for separation will continue to be the main priority for the SNP Government as we head into Brexit discussions – and not the best interests of Scotland and the United Kingdom.
“So while I will continue to support the Scottish Government’s involvement in Brexit discussions, I am also announcing that the Scottish Conservatives will form our own expert group to assess the risks and opportunities of Brexit for Scotland.”
Gavin Hewitt, former chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association and, prior to that, the UK’s Ambassador to Belgium, Finland and Croatia is on the group, along with Sir Iain McMillan, the former head of CBI Scotland.
It also includes Tory MSPs Adam Tomkins, who voted to Remain, and Alexander Stewart who voted to Leave. “I will ask them to report to me on how best they believe Brexit can deliver for Scotland and crucially for the entire United Kingdom,” Ms Davidson added.
“We believe that Scotland’s interests are not served by constantly trying to pick apart the United Kingdom. “We believe that Scotland’s best interests are served by ensuring the strength and durability of the entire United Kingdom of which we are a key part.”
A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said independence remains an option to protect Scotland’s relationship with the EU. He said: “The evidence is mounting by the day of the potentially huge damage Brexit threatens to jobs, investment and Scotland’s economy. “It is Ruth Davidson and her Tory colleagues who have created the problem but who also appear utterly clueless about how to fix it.”