DOUGLAS Ross has urged people who have never Tory before to lend his party their vote to stop a second independence referendum.

The Scottish Tory leader urged pro-UK voters to back his party “in the national interest” and put the economic recovery from the pandemic ahead of another constitutional fight which would “wreck” it.

Launching his party’s manifesto in Glasgow, he appealed for list votes from people “even if you have never thought of yourself as a Conservative or have never voted for us before”.

He said Labour was “unwilling and unable to stand up to the Nationalists”, while the Liberal Democrats wished the issue would go away.

Ms Sturgeon last week said she wanted to hold Indyref2 by the end of 2023, Covid permitting.

Boris Johnson has already refused one request to give Holyrood the required referendum powers, saying the No vote of 2014 should stand for another 40 years.

However Ms Sturgeon has said a pro-independence majority of MSPs would be a mandate for Indyref2, and said if the PM refused, Holyrood would pass its own referendum legislation and effectively dare the UK Government to challenge it at the UK Supreme Court.

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Westminster, as the sovereign parliament, could simply pass a law blocking any such referendum to avoid a legal ruling, although that could backfire politically.

Introducing Mr Ross, who is fighting to keep his party in second place at Holyrood, Glasgow Tory MSP Annie Wells also asked non-Tory supporters to lend her party their regional list vote “this one time”.

The request is a clear echo of Boris Johnson’s appeal to former Labour supporters to vote Tory to “get Brexit done” at the 2019 general election.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross warns Nicola Sturgeon's Indyref2 plan would mean 'economic chaos'

The Scottish Tories also had their biggest success of devolution at the 2016 Holyrood election when then leader Ruth Davidson made the party a rallying point for Unionist voters in the wake of the 2014 referendum.

However that was before Brexit and Mr Johnson took their toll on Tory support north of the border.

Mr Ross also repeatedly accused Nicola Sturgeon of neglecting her duty as First Minister on health, education and drug deaths in order to prioritise the constitution.

The Moray MP and former MSP, who is bidding to return to Holyrood via the Highlands & Islands list, said his manifesto was a detail and fully costed programme for recovery from the pandemic.

He said: “We need to ensure the Scottish Parliament is laser-focused on our national interest right now, not party-political priorities.

“We need to prevent the SNP from winning a majority, from having total control.

“And it is only by voting for the Scottish Conservatives, that we can achieve this.

“In 2016, half a million Scots gave their party list vote to us and together we stopped an SNP majority that all the pundits believed was inevitable.

“Just like last time, Nicola Sturgeon thinks she has got this election in the bag.

“But if we come together again, we can prove her wrong again. We can prevent an SNP majority and win a Scottish Parliament working in our national interest.

The Scottish Tories won seven constituency MSPs and 24 list MSPs in the 2016 election.

Mr Ross went on: “We need to choose to rebuild Scotland now. And the only way to do that in this election is to vote Scottish Conservative with your party list vote on the 6th of May.

“Even if you have never thought of yourself as a Conservative or have never voted for us before.

“Only the Scottish Conservatives have the strength across the country to stop the SNP from winning a majority and wrecking our recovery with a second referendum. 

“If pro-UK voters unite behind the Scottish Conservatives, then we can stop an SNP majority, we have done it before,

“So, let’s now come together in the national interest.

“Let’s keep our country united and focused on the task at hand.

“Let’s get on the road to recovery and not allow the SNP to divert us with another independence referendum.”

Earlier, Ms Well said: “I’m asking people across Scotland, no matter who they voted for in the past, to give the Scottish Consvertaives their party vote this one time so we can end the SNP’s threat of another damaging and unwanted referendum and get the Scottish Parliament focused on [other] priorities.”