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Scots Tories' anger over Cameron poll date U-turn

SCOTTISH Tories last night accused David Cameron of undermining the party's leader north of the Border after the Prime Minister's U-turn on the independence referendum date.

RUTH DAVIDSON: Played down the latest row.
RUTH DAVIDSON: Played down the latest row.

Despairing MSPs said the party in Scotland was "not even on his radar" and accused Mr Cameron of hanging Scots leader Ruth Davidson "out to dry".

The angry comments came after the Prime Minister told a reception at the Scotland Office in London on Tuesday night he was not "too fussy" about the timing of the referendum – effectively conceding to the Nationalists' wish for a vote on separation in the autumn of 2014.

He made his comments even though Ms Davidson has fought to hold the public line that delaying the referendum date for more than two years is unacceptable.

Last night Mr Cameron was accused of having no regard at all for the views of the Scottish party.

One senior MSP told The Herald: "The real significance of this is David Cameron clearly doesn't think he has done anything wrong because the Scottish Tories are such an irrelevance we are just not on his radar. This was not wilful or deliberate or even careless. It just showed it did not occur to him the view of the Scottish party or its leader might even matter."

The anger over the latest Downing Street intervention spans all wings of the party, crossing the fault-lines of last year's leadership contest.

Some who backed Ms Davidson are furious Mr Cameron has left her "hung out to dry" while those in other camps question the point of London securing their preferred pro-Union candidate only to leave her out of the loop now.

"There is absolutely no communication from London," said another Tory MSP. "It's ridiculous. Even the Liberal Democrats are better at this."

Ms Davidson played down the latest row, saying: "The Prime Minister was simply repeating what he said on the campaign trail in Bellshill a few weeks ago. That is, while he would prefer to see a referendum sooner rather than later, having a single question in a legal, fair and decisive referendum is much more important than the date on which it is held."

The SNP seized on the remarks, questioning where it left both Ms Davidson and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, who yesterday renewed his call for talks.

Mr Moore said: "We've always said the referendum should be sooner rather than later, and it's strange the First Minister would want to delay the referendum he's spent his professional life working towards."

The Nationalists' constitution spokesman at Westminster, Pete Wishart, said: "David Cameron's cave-in on the date of the referendum left the Scottish Secretary and indeed his own Scottish leader looking very silly – and Michael Moore has now fallen into line.

"The Westminster Government's insistence the referendum had to be in 2013 was clearly all a big act.

"Only last month Michael Moore was warning about waiting until 2014. He is left looking very silly, as his Tory warnings over the date are exposed as a sham.

"Where does the Prime Minister's 'Dover Declaration' leave the Scottish Tories? Ruth Davidson has been undermined again by David Cameron."

Former first minister Jack McConnell intervened in the debate yesterday, saying delaying the referendum to 2014 was "unacceptable".

Lord McConnell said: "Like the UK economy and economies across Europe, the Scottish

economy has real problems just now. Whatever opinions exist on both sides of the argument about Scotland's potential after a referendum, to delay this decision for another two-and-a-half years at a time of slow growth and substantial unemployment is complacent and likely to endanger the prospects of young Scots for a generation."

He added: "Anybody who is talking honestly and confidentially to business at the moment knows people are hesitating to invest in Scotland until there is a result. Both governments need to wake up and smell the coffee on this and think again. Two-and-a-half years of more uncertainty for inward investors and Scottish business will leave Scotland lagging behind. This is putting politics ahead of the jobs of ordinary people and that is unacceptable."

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