Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said every vote for the Tories will “cut the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon down to size”, adding he hopes Douglas Ross will be the next First Minister.
Speaking during a visit to Glasgow following the announcement of 500 jobs being created in the city through a Cabinet Office expansion, Mr Gove said another independence referendum would be a “momentous distraction”, but refused to be drawn on whether the UK Government would be forced to grant one if the SNP return a majority in this year’s election.
Currently, the SNP enjoy a near insurmountable lead in the polls, with some suggesting they could take a majority, bolstering the case that Scots want another vote on separation.
Conversely, the Tories look set to stay in second place, with 20% support in both the constituency and list vote in a recent Savanta ComRes poll for The Scotsman, while support for the SNP was at 55% and 42% respectively.
Mr Gove said: “It’s up to the Scottish people to decide who the next First Minister is, I hope it will be Douglas Ross.
“The Scottish Conservatives are the only party fighting an unapologetically pro-UK campaign focused on jobs and economic recovery.
“We know that every vote for the Scottish Conservatives is a vote to cut the SNP and cut Nicola Sturgeon down to size and that seems to me to be the wisest thing to do.”
Mr Gove added there are a number of issues that should be the focus of the May 6 election other than independence, adding: “I want to look forward, but inevitably people in this election campaign will reflect on the Scottish Government’s record, and they will make their own judgement on that.
“What I want to do is to make sure we’re in the strongest position possible, whoever the next First Minister is, to concentrate on those areas where we need to make up lost ground: education, waiting lists in our NHS and the economic performance of Scotland and the whole UK.”
When asked if the UK Government would agree to a second vote if a majority of SNP MSPs were elected, Mr Gove sidestepped the question, saying: “We’ve been clear that the most important thing at the moment is to focus on our health recovery and our economic recovery.
“It seems to me that talk of an independence referendum is just a momentous distraction from that.”
Mr Gove added that people he speaks to in Scotland rate supporting the NHS, economic recovery and improving education as higher priorities than independence.