Scotland politics

Ruth Davidson warns of 'fratricidal conflict'

Ruth Davidson
Image caption Ruth Davidson was addressing an audience at an event organised by the David Hume Institute

Ruth Davidson has warned the SNP against using Brexit as an excuse to "start yet another fratricidal conflict".

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly said a second independence referendum is likely in the wake of the UK's decision to leave the EU.

But Ms Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, stressed the need to "avoid further instability".

The SNP accused Ms Davidson of using "inflammatory language".

It also said Ms Davidson's comments were proof that the Conservatives had "lost the plot", and called on Ms Davidson to "apologise for her shameless sell-out on Scotland's place in the single market".

'Bully pulpit'

Speaking at the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh on Tuesday evening, Ms Davidson said she did not want Scotland to join "post-Trump America and pre-election France as this year's focal point for global instability."

And she said SNP government ministers were using the "language of the bully pulpit" to try to convince voters there should be another referendum on Scotland's place in the UK.

Scotland has gone through "10 years of constitutional division" since the SNP came to power, Ms Davidson argued.

While she said most people are not "cheerleaders" for Brexit, she insisted the majority "do not want our departure from the European Union, and all the division that brings, to trigger another referendum on our own union of nations, with all the division that brings too".

This group includes supporters of the UK who "believe that the question on our future was answered for good in 2014, and should not be returned to".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon has said an independence referendum is increasingly likely following the Brexit vote

But Ms Davidson said there are also "many independence supporters who simply believe now is not the right time to be opening up another wound".

She told the audience that the Scottish government's Brexit Minister Mike Russell had branded the UK "insular" and "inward looking", while Ms Sturgeon had said a decision on Scotland's future is something we all "must confront".

Ms Davidson said: "In other words, having failed to persuade people of the necessity of another referendum, the SNP is now hoping to soften us up by telling us we'll just have to accept it.

"It is the language of the bully pulpit. The attacks on the UK are grave distortions. It doesn't speak of a party confident of its case. It smacks of desperation - and I urge the SNP to take a different path."

Ms Davidson also said polls have suggested that the level of support for independence has not increased since the last referendum in 2014.

'Apologist-in-chief'

She added: "All politicians - unionist and nationalist - are now getting a firm instruction from the Scottish people.

"Yes, we have our views. Yes, we differ. But no, this is not the right time to rip things up again. I believe we now must focus on the challenges that we have, not on adding to them."

A spokesman for the SNP said: "The Tories have completely lost the plot - and Ruth Davidson's use of inflammatory language by comparing legitimate political debate as fratricidal conflict just shows how rattled she is.

"And no wonder, given her role as apologist-in-chief for right-wing Westminster Tories who now think they can do anything they want to Scotland and get away with it.

"Ruth Davidson misled the people of Scotland in the independence referendum when she claimed a No vote guaranteed our place in Europe, and she is now a champion of Brexit having previously claimed the case was built on lies.

"That just shows how she flip-flops on issues at the drop of a hat simply to please her Tory bosses in Westminster."