Scotland politics

Ruth Davidson: Scottish Tories 'out and proud'

Ruth Davidson Image copyright PA
Image caption Ms Davidson addressed the conference directly ahead of the prime minister

The Scottish Conservatives are "out and proud" and "here to stay", their leader has told the Tory conference in Birmingham.

Ruth Davidson said her party was picking up support across Scotland, and was "not hiding any more".

And she predicted next year's council elections would see it deliver its best result since devolution.

Ms Davidson also urged Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to rule out a second independence referendum.

She told delegates on the final day of the conference: "The majority have no wish to return to the divisions of the past - we want to seize the opportunities of the future.

"Most Scots have had enough. And they are telling her - for pity's sake, first minister, let this go."

The Scottish Conservatives are currently the second largest party at Holyrood, behind the SNP, after overtaking Labour for the first time since the Scottish Parliament was created in 1999.

But the Tories only have one MP in Scotland, while the SNP returned 56 in last year's general election.

Ms Davidson said her party was "standing up to the SNP" and providing the "strong opposition Scotland so desperately needs".

She added: "From the Borders to Banff, we are showing that there is another way. A better way.

"One which seeks not to stoke divisions or split our country, but one which knuckles down and gets on with the job."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon launched the SNP's "new conversation" on independence in Stirling last month

Ms Sturgeon, the SNP leader and Scottish first minister, said a second independence referendum was "highly likely" after Scotland voted to remain in the EU but the UK as a whole voted to leave.

She has instructed Scottish government officials to start drawing up plans for a new vote, and recently launched a "new conversation" aimed at boosting support for independence.

But recent opinion polls have suggested there has not been a large shift in favour of independence since the Brexit vote, with a narrow majority still apparently in favour of Scotland remaining in the UK.

'Picking a fight'

Ms Davidson urged the Conservative conference not to believe SNP assertions that Scottish independence was now inevitable, and pledged to "fight every inch" to keep the UK together.

She said: "Every nation is bigger than any one party - bigger than any one person.

"So next time you see Nicola Sturgeon picking a fight, or trying to claim the United Kingdom is over, remember, she does not speak for the country.

"And, when she threatens to put yet another divisive referendum back on the table, the nation is not behind her. She's not speaking for the majority. Because the majority of us want to move on."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Theresa May told the Conservative conference that "we are one UK"
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Both Ms Davidson and Mrs May were given a warm reception by the conference

She used her speech to hold up Theresa May as evidence that "gender is no barrier to advancement" in Britain.

Ms Davidson was speaking immediately ahead of the prime minister's address to the conference, which is being held in Birmingham.

Mrs May told the gathering that "we are one UK - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland".

She repeated the words of her opening conference address by saying: "And I will always fight to preserve our proud, historic union and will never let divisive nationalists drive us apart."

At the weekend, the SNP accused Mrs May of using "inflammatory" language after her first speech.