Ruth Davidson has warned Unionists would struggle to win a second independence referendum within the next 15 years, as she predicted future political battles in Scotland would be between the Conservatives and the SNP.


The Scottish Conservative leader put the boot in to Labour following its General Election defeat which left the party with one MP north of the Border.

She said Scots no longer knew what the party stood for and suggested that securing a second No vote would become easier by 2030.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out including an independent referendum in her manifesto for next year's Holyrood elections.

Labour has accused the Conservatives of promoting the SNP during the General Election, in a bid to scare voters in England.

The Tories produced a series of attack adverts in the run up to the vote, including one depicting former leader Alex Salmond as a pickpocket.

Answering questions after a speech in the Scotland Office in London's Whitehall, Ms Davidson forecast that Labour would become irrelevant in Scotland.

She said that Scottish Labour leadership contender Kezia Dugdale was "entirely correct" to say "Labour has much further to fall" after losing 40 of the 41 Westminster seats it took in 2010.

Her party, by contrast, could "challenge the soggy-left consensus", she said.

She added: "I think we can get a Scotland where actually the big argument is not Labour and the SNP who try to steal each other's clothes.

"The argument is the SNP and Conservatives and people won't see the point of the Labour Party.

"What is it for? Who does it speak to? Who does it speak for? Whose arguments is it espousing?"

On the issue of another independence referendum, however, she struck a noticeably less upbeat note.

"I think that if there was a referendum in short order in the next five years or so it would be hard to win," she said.

"I think in the longer term, if there was to say be a referendum in 15 years I think it would be an easier proposition."

This was because of a number of factors including "changes in the oil price" and the extra tax responsibilities being transferred to Holyrood.

These, in particular, would make it "harder for the SNP to hide behind the fantasy economics they trade in", she claimed.

Mr Salmond has claimed that independence is "inevitable" and that the only question now is the timetable.

That claim was attacked by Ms Davidson during her speech who said that if the Union did not exist it would have to be invented.

But she also issued a strongly-worded warned that pro-Union politicians, including David Cameron's government, had to "wake up" and do more to strengthen the ties that bind the United Kingdom.

Labour accused Ms Davidson and Mr Cameron of hypocrisy in their attitude towards the SNP on both sides of the border.

"This is desperate stuff from the Scottish Tories, who spent years propping the SNP up in Holyrood and plastered Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond all over their General Election posters," a Labour spokesman said.

Last month new Scottish Secretary David Mundell claimed that the Conservatives were on the verge of becoming the second party in Scotland and the "only real alternative voice to the SNP".