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Davidson eyes deal to break away Scots Tories


Not wedded to may: Ruth Davidson with Jen Wilson. Photo: Getty Images

Not wedded to may: Ruth Davidson with Jen Wilson. Photo: Getty Images

Not wedded to may: Ruth Davidson with Jen Wilson. Photo: Getty Images

Ruth Davidson is to defy Theresa May's plans for a hard Brexit and tear her Scottish party away from English control after the UK Tories' disastrous General Election result.

Fresh from her success in winning an extra 12 Scottish seats, at the same time as Theresa May was losing 21 constituencies in England, Davidson also vowed to use her Commons votes to prioritise the single market over curbing immigration.

This is certain to split Tory ranks - as May has pledged to take the UK out of both the single market and the EU customs union as part of her Brexit negotiations, which begin next week.

But after notching up the biggest Tory victory in Scotland in nearly 40 years, the Scottish party leader said the election result did not give the Prime Minister a mandate to take Britain out of the single market.

Davidson also signalled her opposition to May's deal with the DUP in blunt fashion by tweeting a link to the same-sex marriage lecture she gave at Belfast Pride last year.

She is engaged to Jen Wilson, a Wexford woman and an avowed Catholic who was involved in campaigning for a Yes vote in Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum. Davidson is a Christian herself and has said she would like to get married in a local church.

Her views could not be further from those of the DUP, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage. This weekend, Davidson said she had sought and received assurances from the Prime Minister that she would try to advance gay rights in Northern Ireland despite the DUP's record.

Amid a growing clamour among senior Tories in London for Davidson to be given a top position in the UK party, her aides are working on a deal that would see the Scottish party break away to form a separate organisation.

It would maintain a close relationship with the English party, and its 13 MPs would take the Tory whip.

Although it has been mooted for some time, the imminent split between the Scottish and English parties is a direct result of a dramatic deterioration in relations between the Scottish Tory hierarchy in Edinburgh and 10 Downing Street.

Davidson flexed her political muscle following a disastrous election for the SNP, which saw former leader Alex Salmond lose his seat. Nicola Sturgeon hinted that she would row back on her plan for a second independence referendum but Davidson demanded she "give Scotland a break" by immediately taking the plan off the table.

The Nationalists ended up with 35 seats, the Tories 13, Labour seven and the Lib Dems four. But this compares with the 56 seats the Nationalists won in 2015, when the other three parties held on to only one constituency each.

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However, the Conservatives in Scotland have complained of too much "interference" from London, since May assumed office last year. The focus of their annoyance appears to be Scottish-born Fiona Hill, the Downing Street communications chief who resigned yesterday.

She is reported to have been continually second guessing decisions made in Edinburgh. This came to a head when Davidson was "ordered" not to run a distinctive Scottish campaign but instead to "stick to the script" devised in London of pinning the entire Tory effort around May and Brexit.

This ran completely contrary to the issue Davidson favoured - namely the SNP demanding another independence referendum. She reckoned her opposition chimed with most Scottish voters - so she ignored London's orders.

Given the lack of an overall majority, the Scottish Tory votes would be crucial to May getting her legislation through the Commons. Above all their votes could make or break her Brexit negotiations.

Most Scots voted Remain and Davidson has repeatedly said she favours Britain reaching an agreement that allows it to stay in both the single market and customs union.

At a press conference she said: "We must seek to deliver an open Brexit, not a closed one, which puts out country's economic growth first." In answer to questions, she said she wanted the "greatest possible amount of free trade".

She has also argued that the UK should keep free movement if that was the price of maintaining open access to European markets.


Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

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