Douglas Ross wants to 'take back Scotland' from the SNP

19 March 2022, 13:11 | Updated: 19 March 2022, 13:13

Douglas Ross during the Scottish Conservative Conference
Douglas Ross during the Scottish Conservative Conference. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has channelled the spirit of the Brexit campaign and said his party needs to "take back Scotland from the SNP".

Delivering his speech to his party's conference in Aberdeen, the MSP, said Scotland had been "gripped by the dead hand of nationalism for the last 15 years" and claimed only the Tories could provide a "real alternative".

In a speech which was designed to fire up council candidates for elections in May he said the Scottish Conservatives must bring together the "silent majority" which voted No in the 2014 independence referendum.

"We need to take back Scotland from the SNP. And we know there is a majority out there to take us forward. The same silent majority that said 'No' to Nicola Sturgeon in 2014.

"And our goal must be to bring that majority together again to break this deadlock."

Mr Ross also jokingly referred to the fact he lost his voice earlier in the week, which led to one of his MSPs standing in at First Minister's Questions. He said: "We need the silent majority to rediscover its voice, just like I've done today."

He also said a Local Care Service will be among an "ambitious policy programme" his party will bring forward at Holyrood over the next four years as well as "delivering a Victim's Law, to put the justice system on the side of victims of crime and their families. "

"Supporting oil and gas and nuclear energy, to hit Putin in his pocket. Ending Covid restrictions, to trust the public to keep themselves and their families safe."

He said Scotland has become "bitter and inward-looking" since the SNP came to power in 2007.

"The nation I grew up in was confident and outward-looking. Yet the nation my kids grow up in today is bitter and inward-facing."

He continued: "We have become worse off, both economically and intellectually, because we are stuck with a government that won't take any responsibility, that say that none of this is their fault. "Whose answer is always the same: Westminster, Westminster, Westminster."

He described talk of shutting down North Sea oil and gas production as "naive and reckless" and accused the SNP of pursuing "pet priorities" rather than rebuilding after the pandemic.

He said: "The party that used to say it's Scotland's oil - now they want to shut it down. What a shocking U-turn from a party that pretends to represent this great city, pretends to stand up for Aberdeen and the north-east. And at this time of Russian aggression, it is naive and reckless."

Referencing a speech yesterday by Ukrainian Scot Zhenya Dove, he called for generosity to be shown towards Ukrainians who come to the UK seeking sanctuary.

"We must continue to give them the support they need to defend their country. We must be generous to those who come here looking for sanctuary. "And when this is over, we must help the people of Ukraine to rebuild their country."

However Mr Ross was criticised by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar who laughed off the suggestion the Tories were the only alternative to the SNP.

“The facts are clear – the Scottish Conservatives are the party of the past and have nothing to offer the people of Scotland,” he said.

“From the cruel benefits cap to inaction in the face of the cost of living crisis, it is clear that the Tories are failing the most vulnerable in Scotland.”

And SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “After losing his voice, people will be wishing Douglas Ross would stay silent for a while longer.

“Most people won’t recognise the country they call home in the bitter, small-minded description of Scotland that he paints.

“The reality is that his craven climb-down over his call on Boris Johnson to quit has left him a lame-duck leader with zero credibility, even among his own party.

“Less than a year ago the people of this country utterly rejected the Scottish Tories at the ballot box, and returned the SNP to government with a cast-iron mandate to hold an independence referendum.

“The Tories’ bid to defy democracy is simply untenable, and they know it – which is why they are so busy in the background making plans on how to contest an independence referendum.”

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