Scotland politics

Election 2017: Tory manifesto says 'public consent' needed for indyref2

Theresa May Image copyright EPA
Image caption Theresa May unveiled the Conservative manifesto in Halifax

A second independence referendum will not be held unless there is "public consent" for it to happen, the Conservative election manifesto says.

It also pledges there will be no vote on the issue "until the Brexit process has played out".

But the manifesto, which was launched by Theresa May in Halifax, does not specify what "public consent" means.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants a referendum to be held in the autumn of next year or spring of 2019.

Her call was formally backed by the Scottish Parliament in March - although it was opposed by the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats, with the Scottish Greens backing the SNP in the final vote.

The prime minister has repeatedly said that "now is not the time" for another vote on the issue, arguing that the focus should instead be on negotiating the best Brexit deal for the whole of the UK.

But Ms Sturgeon argues that the Scottish people should be able to choose which path to follow in the wake of the Brexit vote, and that blocking a referendum would be a "democratic outrage".

The Conservative manifesto claims that "some would disrupt our attempts to get the best deal for Scotland and the United Kingdom with calls for a divisive referendum that the people of Scotland do not want".

It goes on to say: "We have been very clear that now is not the time for another referendum on independence.

"In order for a referendum to be fair, legal and decisive, it cannot take place until the Brexit process has played out and it should not take place unless there is public consent for it to happen.

"This is a time to pull together, not apart."

Image caption Voters rejected independence by 55% to 45% in the 2014 referendum

Mrs May said the manifesto contained proposals that would "see us through Brexit and beyond", describing it as a "plan for a stronger, fairer, more prosperous Britain".

She has promised a "mainstream government that would deliver for mainstream Britain" if she wins the election on 8 June.

The manifesto includes a fresh pledge to curb immigration, and says the government will deliver a balanced budget by the "middle of the next decade".

On Brexit, it pledges to negotiate a "deep and special partnership" which will allow free trade between the UK and the EU's member states, but with the UK leaving the single market and customs union.

It also says there will be no increase in VAT, and promises to increase the national living wage to 60% of the median earnings by 2020.

And it says the so-called "triple lock" on pensions will be reduced to a "double lock" with the state pension to rise by the higher of average earnings or inflation - but it will no longer go up by 2.5% if they are both lower than that.

'Economic growth'

The manifesto says Scotland's economic growth has lagged behind the rest of the United Kingdom in recent years, but that the Conservatives "take seriously our duty to secure prosperity for the whole of the United Kingdom".

The document pledges: "We will, therefore, take concerted action to help secure the long-term sustainability of the Scottish economy. Scotland and Scottish industries will be central to our industrial strategy."

This action will include:

  • Backing Scotland's energy sector - including creating a world-leading decommissioning industry in the North Sea and a commitment to remote island wind development
  • Building on the City and Growth deals that have been signed across Scotland
  • Bringing forward a Borderlands Growth Deal to help secure prosperity in southern Scotland
  • Protecting the interests of Scottish farmers and fishermen as part of a new UK farming and fisheries policy
  • Using the "United Kingdom's muscle" to promote Scottish exports around the world

Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who was the only Conservative MP elected in Scotland in the 2015 general election, described the manifesto as a "plan that delivers for Scotland".

He added: "It shows that a re-elected Conservative government will continue to ensure that Scotland benefits from its membership of the United Kingdom."

The SNP said the Conservative manifesto was a "cruel and callous attack on families" with planned cuts that it said would hit pensioners, working families and public services.

'Ideological obsession'

The party's deputy leader, Angus Robertson, said: "The SNP already protect free personal care, free childcare, free school meals, and will stand up against these callous Tory cuts."

He went on to claim the Conservatives have "made a rod for their own back" over independence, because "if they now fail to win the election in Scotland they have no basis whatsoever on which to continue to thwart the will of the Scottish Parliament".

Meanwhile, James Kelly of Scottish Labour said the Conservative "ideological obsession with a hard Brexit" had allowed the SNP to kick-start a fresh campaign for independence.

He added: "This Tory manifesto means every Conservative candidate in Scotland is standing on a platform endorsing the abhorrent rape clause, the bedroom tax and swingeing cuts to social security payments.

"There is now a clear choice between a radical vision of a fairer UK with a Labour government, or Theresa May' Little Britain, closed off from the world and building borders as nationalist governments always do."