Scotland politics

Davidson a 'one-trick pony' - Sturgeon

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Media captionMs Sturgeon traded blows over an independence referendum and Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon has accused Ruth Davidson of being a "one-trick pony" as she faced fresh calls to drop her plans for a second independence referendum.

Ms Sturgeon has said she will take time to reflect on the result of last week's general election.

She refused to be drawn on her plans as she faced opposition leaders at first minister's questions.

But she claimed Ms Davidson was "left floundering" when she had to talk about any issue other than a referendum.

The first minister came under pressure to set out whether she would ditch another vote on the issue following the SNP's loss of 21 seats in last week's snap general election.

Ms Davidson's Scottish Conservatives won 13 seats in Scotland, with Labour winning seven and the Liberal Democrats four.

In the first FMQs since the vote, Ms Davidson accused Ms Sturgeon of "double standards" for failing to act quickly to rule out another referendum.

She pointed out that the SNP leader had "pounced" to put the issue on the table within hours of the UK's vote to leave the European Union last June.

And she highlighted a new Survation poll for the Daily Record that suggested 60% of Scots - including nearly a third of SNP voters - believe Ms Sturgeon should drop her demand for a referendum, as well as calls from some SNP figures to take a step back.

Ms Davidson said: "Let's cut to the chase today. This has got nothing to do with listening to the people, it's all about how she can find a way to re-float or re-brand her sinking dream of independence and the people of Scotland just want to put it behind us.

"She says she's listening to the folk of Scotland and so she should. Her referendum isn't wanted so will she ditch it now?"

'Achieve compromise'

There has been speculation that the SNP will seek to "rebrand" its offer of a referendum to make it a choice between a so-called hard Brexit and independence.

But Ms Sturgeon branded much of the speculation as "nonsense" in a series of tweets sent early on Wednesday morning.

The SNP's new leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme on Thursday that the election result made it "more likely we can achieve compromise on protecting the people of Scotland being dragged out of the single market against our will."

He added: "The government always made it clear that any possibility of a referendum would only take place if there were a change in circumstances. The first priority is to protect the interests of the people of Scotland."

And Mr Blackford stressed: "Any referendum, if it does take place, would take place after the Brexit deal has been negotiated."

Image copyright SNP
Image caption Ian Blackford appeared to suggest he did not think a second referendum was inevitable

Responding to Ms Davidson at FMQs, Ms Sturgeon repeated her position that she would proceed with "calm reflection in the national interest" before making any decision about a referendum.

She said: "I think what Ruth Davidson has just demonstrated there today, and what she is increasingly demonstrating to the Scottish people, is that she is nothing more than a one-trick pony, having to confront any issue other than an independence referendum, she is left floundering."

Ms Sturgeon called on Ms Davidson to set out her position on Brexit, asking "or is her position exactly what her position has been over the past year that she will do exactly what Theresa May tells her to do regardless of what is in the best interest of the country?"

She claimed the "grubby deal" between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party was not in the national interest, saying she was concerned by the "disregard" shown for the Northern Irish peace process and called for full details of any deal to be made public.

And she described the Conservatives as a "shower of charlatans" who risk making the UK a "laughing stock internationally".

Analysis by Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor

Nicola Sturgeon does not want to answer questions about whether she will shelve indyref2. That is because she wants, literally, to keep her options open.

She wonders whether a referendum on independence, currently discounted by her rivals, might perhaps revive as a serious prospect if and when the present miasma clears. If, to be precise, the Brexit talks are under way and are not seen, generally, to be protecting Scotland's interests, however defined.

So she wants to consult. She wants to listen. Both laudable and understandable aims. Under pressure to pronounce, she says - with some evident, calendrical justice - that the more immediate challenge is to bring a Scottish dimension to the Brexit negotiations.

And after the consultation? Things might change but it still seems most likely that Ms Sturgeon will not want to shut down entirely the option of indyref2. Perhaps she might want to stretch the time frame although, to be frank, that was always linked to the conclusion of Brexit talks anyway.

So, the strategy for now is to say as little as possible about independence - and to depict her rivals as obsessing about an issue which has been and remains a fundamental principle for the SNP.

Read more from Brian

Ms Sturgeon said it was a "dereliction of duty" for the Scottish Tory leader not to focus on the beginning of the Brexit negotiations next week.

She said: "On Monday the UK government is about to start a formal negotiation with the EU with no mandate for its hard Brexit position, no consensus even within its own ranks about what it is trying to achieve, let alone in the country more widely.

"In short, in just four days' time we are going to be led off the cliff edge by a Tory government devoid of legitimacy and credibility and utterly clueless about what it is trying to achieve. That is the real and present danger to Scottish jobs, investment and living standards.

"So any politician with the national interest rather than just party interest at heart will be focused on trying to protect Scotland from a disaster that the Tories are in the process of leading us into, and that is what I am focused on doing."

Labour's Lewis Macdonald later called on the first minister to stop working on a second independence referendum.

He said: "She lost a heap of seats, her flagship policy cost her votes and yet she seemed to think she had won the election. That was Theresa May last week - but Nicola Sturgeon this week seems to be equally in denial.

"Given that the First Minister has said that she wants to be involved in negotiating Brexit on behalf of the UK, will she not now recognise that she cannot be sitting at the top table and heading for the exit at one and the same time?"

Ms Sturgeon said she thought all parties would agree Scotland should be represented in the Brexit negotiations and was "astounded" by the Labour intervention.