Jackson Carlaw: Tories are the only unionist party

The Scottish Conservative leader said a second independence vote shouldn’t be held for decades.

Jackson Carlaw: Tories are only unionist party. STV
Jackson Carlaw: Tories are only unionist party.

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw has said his party is the only unionist party in Scotland.

The Tory MSP said politicians should “honour” the result of the 2014 independence vote – and respect the commitment it would be “once-in-a-generation”.

He indicated no further referendum on Scottish independence should be held for decades.

Carlaw told STV’s Scotland Tonight that any independence held soon would be “brutal”.

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The Scottish Tory leader is the latest senior Scots politician to be interviewed on the programme by STV’s political editor Colin Mackay as part of a series of election specials.

His remarks come days after Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard told Scotland Tonight he would not describe himself as a unionist.

Pressed on why the Scottish Conservative manifesto was so centred around the party’s opposition to indyref2, Carlaw said: “Nicola Sturgeon has made independence centre-stage the issue of this election campaign.

“I think after ten years of constitutional division, one party has to stop Nicola Sturgeon.

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“There used to be three unionist parties that people could rely on to say no to Nicola Sturgeon – now I believe there is only one.”

He said the atmosphere of any fresh independence or Brexit vote would be “brutal”, adding: “I think we’ve had enough of that.

“We made a decision in 2014 and it’s time to move on.”

Carlaw went on: “We promised people it would be a once-in-a-generation referendum.

“It actually said it in writing in the Scotland’s Future document that the Scottish Government published and circulated to many households.”

Asked what would constitute a fresh mandate for an independence vote, the Scottish Tory leader answered: “A generation passing.

“We told people it would be once-in-a-generation, we’re going to respect that mandate that two million people voted for.

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“At no election since 2014 has a pro-independence party managed to attract more votes than those who voted No in 2014.”

He criticised the SNP’s position on both proposed referendums as “disposable democracy”.

Carlaw took the reins of his party on an interim basis in August after the resignation of Ruth Davidson, with a leadership election anticipated next year.

In June, as deputy leader, he criticised Boris Johnson for “deliberately us(ing) loose language in a way which I find unacceptable”.

Asked if he now trusts the Prime Minister, Carlaw said: “I do.

“I said, I think to you, Colin, actually, in debate here in June that I would judge him by what he did as Prime Minister, not what he’d done or said before he was Prime Minister.

“He has put the union at the centre of this campaign, he’s negotiated the fresh deal with the EU27 that everybody said he couldn’t do.

“And frankly, I’m pleased to say he’s listened to some of the requests I’ve made to put Scottish issues at the heart of this campaign.”

But the Scottish Conservative chief conceded he “didn’t like” when Johnson described a female MP’s concerns over abuse and death threats as “humbug” in fractious Commons scenes back in September.

“I think we are in an environment just now where we all have to be very careful and considered about what we say,” Carlaw added.

The Tory manifesto pledges to end the benefits freeze it introduced in government as part of a package of austerity measures after the financial crash.

But this, along with problems with universal credit and the benefits sanctions regime brought in by the Conservatives, has long been linked to a decade of ever-rising food bank use.

Figures released by the Trussell Trust, which runs two-thirds of the UK’s food banks, show it distributed a record 823,145 emergency food parcels between April and September across the UK.

Carlaw defended his party’s policies, saying: “When we started recovering from the financial crisis, the greatest concern people had was that we were going to see four million unemployed.

“Governments on both sides of the border decided freezing wages, freezing benefits, was worth doing if that meant we could protect people in employment, and we succeeded.”

Pressed to apologise to families who have suffered under Tory benefit changes and been forced to use food banks, he answered: “We weren’t responsible for the economic crisis…

“Universal credit has put hundreds of thousands of people back into work. It’s the right way forward.

“The biggest criticism with universal credit was some of the ways it was implemented and some of the ways in which people were required to present themselves.

“I think we’ve already apologised for that and we’ve ameliorated all of that.”


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