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Vote for Scottish Conservatives will put independence issue ‘to bed’ – Sunak

The Prime Minister insisted that his party can make progress in Scotland.

Voting for the Conservatives rather than the SNP will put the issue of Scottish independence “to bed”, Rishi Sunak has said as he launched the Scottish Conservative manifesto.

The Prime Minister went on to insist that his party can make progress in Scotland, criticising the SNP for making Scotland “the high-tax capital of the UK”.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the Tories could still give the SNP a “bad night” on July 4, while admitting the election campaign had become a “tough scrap” and recent scandal on alleged election betting had been “very difficult”.

His manifesto largely focused on issues which are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, as the Conservatives seek to attack the SNP’s record in government.

During a speech to supporters, Mr Sunak said only the Scottish Conservatives have the “courage to stand up to the nationalists.”

The Prime Minister said: “It’s only Douglas (Ross) and his team that have been prepared to properly stand up to the SNP, standing against both Nicola Sturgeon’s gender recognition reforms and the dangerous hate crime act.”

Douglas Ross and Rishi Sunak holding manifesto document
Douglas Ross said the election had been a ‘tough scrap’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

He added: “If the SNP win the majority of seats at this election, they will treat that as a mandate to carry on campaigning for independence for another five years …

“A vote for the Scottish Conservatives is a vote to put this issue to bed, to move past these tired and stale arguments and to go forward united and together.”

Speaking to journalists later, he was asked what would constitute a good result for the Tories in Scotland on election night.

Mr Sunak said: “Douglas (Ross) and I are confident that we’re going to make good progress here in Scotland and that’s because people are responding very positively to the choice that’s in front of them.”

Mr Sunak said the Tories gave an “unequivocal” backing to the North Sea energy industry, saying they are “fighting hard for every vote in every seat”.

He also said he believes he got the timing of the General Election right, saying: “The most important job I had when I was Prime Minister was to restore economic stability back to our country after what has been a really difficult few years with Covid and the war in Ukraine.

“My priority was bring inflation down, because inflation was eating into everyone’s pay packets, their savings, making everyone feel the challenges of the cost of living.”

Mr Ross, who will stand down as Scottish Conservative leader after polling day, said the election had been a “tough scrap” but “we are up for this fight”.

Conservatives wins in the seats where the SNP are their main challengers would mean a “bad night” for John Swinney’s party, Mr Ross told journalists.

In the 2019 general election, the Tories won six seats north of the border.

Mr Ross admitted the recent scandal around insider betting allegations had been difficult for his party.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s very difficult, I’m not going to shy away from that.

“But I think it is also right that there is an independent regulator, the Gambling Commission that’s looking at this.”

The Tory manifesto included pledges to recruit 1,000 more GPs and police officers, improve rural trunk roads, as well as “backing teachers to teach and increasing subject choices for pupils”.

They also promised cuts to income tax and national insurance will be at the heart of the party’s manifesto ahead of the July 4 election.

Rishi Sunak and Douglas Ross outside holding cups
The Prime Minister said he had got the timing of the election right (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

SNP candidate for Glasgow North Alison Thewliss said Mr Sunak and Mr Ross should “compare notes on which one has run the worst campaign”.

“They are both on their last legs as leaders, their party is already finished in this campaign and the real choice for Scotland in this election is who is now best placed to put Scotland’s interests first.

“The SNP are the main challengers in every Tory-held seat and in just 10 days’ time – by voting SNP on July 4 – we have the chance to get rid of every single Tory MP in Scotland.

“The Tories deserve the democratic drubbing that is coming their way. From forcing Scotland out of the EU with a Brexit we didn’t vote for, to Liz Truss’s disastrous mini budget and the Tory cost-of-living crisis – people in Scotland have paid the price of Tory chaos and incompetence, which has left households poorer.

“And in the face of relentless Tory cuts, the SNP has done all it can within its limited power to make life better for people in Scotland – lifting 100,000 children out of poverty with the game-changing Scottish child payment, scrapping peak fares on trains, and expanding free, funded childcare for families in Scotland.”

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