David­son claims ‘Lon­don­cen­tric’ UK threat­ens the union

Sunday Herald - - TORY CONFERENCE SPECIAL - BY AN­DREW WHI­TAKER

RUTH David­son be­lieves that hoard­ing too many pow­ers in Lon­don could cause “cracks” in the Union.

David­son will use her speech to the UK Tory con­fer­ence to­day to ad­mit that Bri­tain has be­come too “Lon­don­cen­tric”.

She will tell the con­fer­ence in Manch­ester: “We live in a coun­try where the prop­erty val­ues of Lon­don’s top 10 bor­oughs are worth more than all of North­ern Ire­land, Scot­land and Wales com­bined.

“Where you can sell up a three­bed semi in Il­ford, and buy half of Suther­land.”

To sup­port the Union, David­son will call for a greater spread of civil ser­vice and public bod­ies across the UK.

She will ad­mit that even af­ter 20 years of de­vo­lu­tion Lon­don still dom­i­nates the UK in a way that other world cap­i­tals such as Wash­ing­ton DC or Berlin do not. The Scot­tish Tory leader will warn her party that sup­port­ers of in­de­pen­dence

would use those fail­ings to “pull us apart for good”.

She will say: “De­vo­lu­tion of power has trans­formed our na­tion for the bet­ter. It has put power closer to peo­ple. But at the same time – while we’ve built vig­or­ous new de­volved struc­tures, we’ve not done enough to nur­ture that which binds us.

“As the Prime Min­is­ter said in Scot­land ear­lier this year, all too of­ten White­hall de­volves and for­gets.

“And the dan­ger is that we be­come a coun­try that stays to­gether, but lives apart. With the cracks ex­ploited by those who would pull us apart for good.”

David­son will ar­gue that more UK in­sti­tu­tions and public ser­vants must be moved away from Lon­don to other cities – re­mark­ing that the cap­i­tal has “enough civil ser­vants to fill Wem­b­ley sta­dium”.

In her speech, David­son will say: “Let’s ab­so­lutely press on with more de­vo­lu­tion. But it’s time for a bit more Union too.

“But the truth is: for all the de­vo­lu­tion of power in the last 20 years, our Union con­tin­ues to be far too Lon­don-cen­tric.”

SNP West­min­ster leader Ian Black­ford hit back say­ing the Tories could not be trusted to de­volve pow­ers away from Lon­don.

He said: “David­son’s com­ments are noth­ing more than a di­ver­sion and an at­tempt to take the fo­cus away from the com­plete fail­ure of the Tories to de­liver for any­where but south­east Eng­land.”

In other de­vel­op­ments, Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said the party’s 13 Scot­tish MPs should dis­tance them­selves from its UK lead­er­ship.

He cam­paigned to scrap the name Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives in a bit­ter con­test with Ruth David­son to lead the party in 2011 and has now re­opened the row as the UK Tory con­fer­ence be­gins.

He stopped short of re­peat­ing his call for a cen­tre-right break­away from the UK Tories, but he said the party must em­brace a “na­tion­al­ist Union­ism” and “Lib­eral Union­ism” to cre­ate a sep­a­rate iden­tity.

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