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SNP 'tried and failed to weaponise Brexit for independence'

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has called for a fresh campaign to promote the union.

By STV News

Published 13 Feb 2017.

The SNP has tried and failed to "weaponise" Brexit in a bid to boost support for independence, the Scottish Conservative leader has claimed.

Ruth Davidson said the UK voting to leave the European Union while Scottish voters backed staying in "provided the means for Nicola Sturgeon to crank up her independence campaign".

The Edinburgh Central MSP also likened supporting independence due to Brexit as "stubbing your toe" then choosing to "amputate your foot".

The comments were made in a speech by the Conservative leader in London aimed at calling on supporters of the union to regroup and make the case for it "afresh".

Davidson said: "The SNP is a formidable political operation which - I suspect - has learnt from the tactics of the Leave campaign last year and is itching to get its own campaign bus into gear as we speak.

"So my view is that the case for the union must be made afresh, and we have to persuade people once again that our own union of nations still works for us all. And there is something of a Brexit paradox here.

"Because while Brexit has provided the means for Nicola Sturgeon to crank up her independence campaign once more - it has also made that case weaker and more illogical than ever."

She added: "As we learned only last month in official Scottish Government statistics, trade within the UK internal market is worth four times to Scotland than trade with the EU.

"The logic is therefore clear. If everyone in Scotland agrees that free trade with Europe is important - and we do - it is literally impossible to deny that trade with the rest of the UK matters four times as much.

"But rather than accept that logic, the same old nationalist contortions are applied. It is already cranking up the grievance machine in an attempt to push people towards the exit door."

Later in the speech, Davidson said: "My focus, as leader of the opposition in Scotland, is to hold the SNP to account in getting on with that job.

"That is why we more than doubled our number of MSPs last year - because people of all political stripes wanted someone to do that job after a period when it felt like the SNP could get away with anything.

"To have someone who will stand up against yet more uncertainty and division, and say No to another referendum.

"That is why, against their own expectations, all their attempts to weaponise Brexit to boost support for independence has simply not worked."

An SNP spokesman said: "Ruth Davidson is resorting to fantasy and delusion in trying to deny the economic catastrophe a Tory hard Brexit threatens Scotland with.

"We face being dragged out of the world's biggest single market - which is around eight times larger than the UK's alone - against our will, which shows that Theresa May and the Westminster Tories now think they can do anything they want to Scotland and get away with it.

"Ruth Davidson, the Brexiteers' apologist in chief, has shamelessly sold out on her commitment to keeping Scotland in the single market, and a hard Brexit threatens 80,000 Scottish jobs over the next decade.

"In those circumstances it is absolutely right that independence should be on the table as an option if it becomes clear it is the best or only way of protecting our vital national interests."