We MUST stop Cor­byn from gift­ing SNP a fresh chance to break up UK

Scottish Daily Mail - - The Grenfell Inquiry - by Jack­son Car­law SCOT­TISH CON­SER­VA­TIVE LEADER

SIX long weeks of cam­paign­ing be­fore the De­cem­ber 12 elec­tion lie ahead – but ev­ery­thing you need to know about the cam­paign in Scot­land was set out yes­ter­day, on day one.

Firstly, in Stir­ling, Ni­cola Stur­geon made clear her only pri­or­ity is to use this elec­tion, like all the oth­ers, to push ever harder for an­other ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence.

She wants to hold that ref­er­en­dum next year. She is hop­ing that an in­creased num­ber of Na­tion­al­ist MPs on the green benches will strengthen her case. With rum­blings of dis­con­tent from within her party about her lead­er­ship, she is fo­cused solely on try­ing to se­cure her legacy be­fore it is too late.

Then, se­condly, in Lon­don, we got fur­ther ev­i­dence of Labour’s com­plete ca­pit­u­la­tion to her de­mands. Speak­ing on TV, one of Jeremy Cor­byn’s shadow cab­i­net min­is­ters Andy Mc­Don­ald de­clared that Labour ‘won’t stand in the way of a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum’. Stand­ing next to him, Na­tion­al­ist MP Pete Wishart de­scribed the state­ment as ‘re­ally pos­i­tive’.

This is the real night­mare be­fore Christ­mas that we face: the prospect of a Jeremy Cor­byn-led Labour party need­ing SNP votes at West­min­ster to take con­trol of No10, and pre­pared to grant Miss Stur­geon the ref­er­en­dum she craves at the drop of a hat. It shows that if she and Mr Cor­byn were ever to get their way, an­other ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence could be on the cards be­fore this year’s Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions have been taken down.

Di­vi­sion

Here, then, is the choice in this cam­paign in a nut­shell. On the one hand, there is Miss Stur­geon and Mr Cor­byn plot­ting more ref­er­en­dums, more di­vi­sion and more un­cer­tainty for Scot­land and the UK. On the other – alone – is a Con­ser­va­tive Party that wants to put that di­vi­sion be­hind us and let the coun­try move on. And it’s be­cause of that choice I feel con­fi­dent the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives can, just like two years ago, give the SNP a bloody nose.

Of course, Ni­cola Stur­geon al­ready ap­pears to be preparing her vic­tory lap in this cam­paign. We keep hear­ing that the Na­tion­al­ists are go­ing to sweep the board. And we keep be­ing told – mostly by the SNP’s ris­i­ble West­min­ster leader Ian Black­ford – that Scot­land is ris­ing up and a revo­lu­tion is com­ing.

I beg to dif­fer. Yes­ter­day I spent the day cam­paign­ing in Perth. Two years ago, the SNP beat us by a mere 21 votes. And mem­bers of the pub­lic out do­ing their shop­ping in the rain yes­ter­day were read­ing from a very dif­fer­ent script from Mr Black­ford’s. The mes­sage I got was clear: peo­ple are ir­ri­tated by the SNP’s con­stant re­frain that it alone speaks for Scot­land.

Vot­ers want Brexit sorted, so the coun­try can move on. And they just want Ni­cola Stur­geon to lis­ten for once (fat chance – at her launch yes­ter­day she banned print jour­nal­ists from ask­ing ques­tions).

So I cau­tion the First Min­is­ter. She may have cal­cu­lated that this snap elec­tion will de­liver her a vic­tory be­fore the tur­moil of the Alex Sal­mond trial be­gins early next year. But just as she seems in­ca­pable of lis­ten­ing to vot­ers, my read­ing is most Scots are now re­pay­ing the com­pli­ment, and are not so pre­pared to lis­ten to Ni­cola Stur­geon.

This is not to di­min­ish the chal­lenge we face as we seek to take on the SNP. But it is to as­sert some quiet con­fi­dence. It is, af­ter all, only two years since the Con­ser­va­tives in Scot­land de­fied the pun­dits by win­ning 13 seats right across Scot­land. Re­mem­ber the panda jokes and the claim Scot­land would be a Tory-free zone? Not so easy to re­call, these days.

In the two years since, Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive MPs have been alone in op­pos­ing the SNP’s push for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence.

They have been alone, too, in de­fend­ing the prin­ci­ple that ref­er­en­dums should be re­spected, and that you don’t get to pick and choose which ones you im­ple­ment and which ones you don’t.

Even among Re­main vot­ers, I get the clear feel­ing that fairminded Scots ac­cept that prin­ci­ple – and agree that we should now leave the EU in an or­derly and speedy man­ner.

Fur­ther­more, we have also spo­ken up for ‘the dis­ap­peared’ in Scot­tish pub­lic life – peo­ple in ru­ral Scot­land, and com­mu­ni­ties in the north-east of Scot­land who now feel ut­terly frozen out by the SNP’s Cen­tral Belt con­trol freak­ery.

So, while pol­i­tics these days is an un­pre­dictable game, I see no rea­son why our 13 MPs from 2017 can­not grow fur­ther in this elec­tion ahead be­cause

I think there are plenty of Scots who – qui­etly per­haps – are gear­ing up to de­liver Ni­cola an­other dose of re­al­ity.

They know they need to box clever – and vote for the party that has the strength to take on the SNP. They know that, in seat af­ter seat, that party is the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives.

We’ve all learned that, by working to­gether, we can beat the SNP and we can make a dif­fer­ence.

Re­lief

Af­ter Miss Stur­geon lost 21 seats in the 2017 Gen­eral Elec­tion, she was forced to ‘re­set’ her plans for a ref­er­en­dum. It may only have been tem­po­rary re­lief for pro-Union Scots, but at least it stopped her for a while. Now, in 2019, we need to tell her again.

The ben­e­fits will be enor­mous. Forc­ing the SNP to dump its ref­er­en­dum does not just pro­tect the Union. It also means we can force the SNP to fo­cus on the things that re­ally mat­ter, such as turn­ing around school stan­dards, sort­ing out the NHS, fix­ing our bro­ken crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

If we use this elec­tion to make clear we don’t want that ref­er­en­dum, we are one step closer to get­ting the kind of gov­ern­ment we de­serve, that puts our pri­or­i­ties first, not those of the nar­row-minded Na­tion­al­ists.

So while I know most Scots would far rather get ready for Christ­mas than pre­pare to head to the polls, I would urge peo­ple to think of the big­ger pic­ture.

Elect­ing a ma­jor­ity Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment opens up the prospect of end­ing the Brexit dead­lock in 2020. Get­ting rid of this failed Par­lia­ment at West­min­ster is the only way to get our pol­i­tics fo­cused back onto the things we care about.

And here in Scot­land, an elec­tion gives us a chance to show the SNP es­tab­lish­ment in Ed­in­burgh that they can’t take peo­ple for granted – and they need to lis­ten, for once, to the ma­jor­ity who don’t want an­other vote on in­de­pen­dence.

Ni­cola Stur­geon has cal­cu­lated that this elec­tion will grant her the chance to de­liver her ref­er­en­dum.

The word is that the SNP will de­mand it the morn­ing af­ter the elec­tion re­sult comes in. The re­sult, they be­lieve, is in the bag.

Let’s imag­ine, in­stead, Ni­cola Stur­geon hav­ing to tear up those plans and be­ing forced to ex­plain why Scot­land ap­pears to have told the SNP to get lost, and to get on with the job we pay them to do at Holy­rood.

Isn’t that an early present that we might all en­joy get­ting this Christ­mas?

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