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Ruth Davidson

Ruth Davidson is the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. She is a Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow.

I know the political class is currently obsessing over the finer details of politicians’ tax returns (and my own unutterably dull one is now available for viewing on the Scottish Conservatives’ website, for the benefit of any insomniac accountants out there).

But there is also an election campaign going on just now – in London, Wales, across a number of local authorities and here in Scotland. Tomorrow, in Glasgow, I will be publishing our Scottish Conservative manifesto for the May 5th vote.

It marks the culmination of nearly five years of hard slog since the last election, during which time we have changed the party to ensure it is fit for purpose to do a job for Scotland.

The details will have to wait till we publish in the morning. But the manifesto will reflect what I see as the core facts of this campaign in Scotland – facts which it would be reckless to ignore.

The first one is that, unless an unless an earthquake happens and the ground swallows them up between now and May 5th, the SNP is on course to win.

There is no merit in refusing to acknowledge reality.

No-one believes that Labour or anyone else is going to overhaul the SNP in the next three weeks. We are where we are.

The second fact is that, if and when it does return to government, the SNP is going to take Scotland back to more division over Scotland’s place in the Union.

Nicola Sturgeon has already said she wants to start a fresh campaign for independence this summer.

She is going to use her position in government to rake over the referendum coals and try to take Scotland back to more constitutional division.

Again, we are where we are.

The third fact is that, faced by this reality, many people I speak to on the doorstep in Scotland desperately want to see the SNP held in check.

These are predominantly people who voted No to independence, and supported a different party at last year’s general election. So strong is this desire, however, I suspect it also includes people who intend to support the SNP on May 5th.

Everybody knows that good governance comes from proper scrutiny. So, the bottom line is that people across Scotland are yearning for a strong opposition which does a proper job.

That leads me to fact four.

Not so long ago, it was the case that Labour was seen as our natural party of government.

When that ended, it then became the case that they were the only credible alternative to the SNP.

Both those assumptions have now collapsed.

And the first three weeks of this campaign have only added to the sense that Labour is a party in decline.

I have seen this at first hand in the Parliament: SNP Ministers have such little respect for Labour that they now think they can get away with anything.

It cannot go on. So fact five is this: that it now falls to the Scottish Conservatives to do the principle job of opposition that Scotland needs.

Even just a few months ago, I’m aware this would have seemed an outlandish statement to make for many people. But as this campaign has moved on, so the idea of the Scottish Conservatives performing the key opposition challenge to the SNP has gained traction.

I will have a refreshed and energised team of MSPs behind me – with nearly half of our current crop of MSPs retiring.

We have prepared well, and are now ready for the task in hand.

Tomorrow’s manifesto will spell out in detail how we plan to do that.

We will seek to scrutinise and oppose where necessary – most obviously over the SNP’s proposed plan to reheat the independence referendum. The need to make the case for our UK has never been more important.

We will also seek to make a positive contribution. Nicola Sturgeon has begun to make moves to improve the rigid once-size-fits-all education system in Scotland which has failed to boost literacy and numeracy rates.

We will set out a clear plan of action as the main opposition party, campaigning for the SNP to do more.

That doesn’t have to be pushing all schools out of local authority control, as we are seeing in England: the end goal for me is to ensure that individual schools get more autonomy and more control so they have the freedom to create their own ethos – within or outwith local councils, whichever works best for them.

As I spelled out at the weekend, we also want to see the Scottish Parliament strengthened – with more power handed to its committees – so it has the necessary teeth to test the Government.

These are all examples of the kind of positive change I want to bring to Scotland over the next five years.

Not in government I admit – at least not yet.

But in opposition, insisting that the SNP gets on with the job in hand – the job we pay them to do.

Holding the SNP to account, providing a strong opposition, and saying no to a second referendum – all of these things will ensure that Scotland gets the better government we deserve.​

49 comments for: Ruth Davidson: The SNP is on course to win in May – which is why Scotland needs a strong, Conservative opposition

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