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Better Together Activists Form New Unionist Party To Fight Scottish Election

The Unionist party, which opposes any new powers for Scotland, hopes to have at least one MSP in May.

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A new unionist party founded by Better Together activists will field candidates in May's Scottish election for voters who feel "let down" by Scotland's mainstream pro-Union parties.

The Unionist party – full name "A Better Britain – Unionist party" – was founded by a group of Glasgow-based activists who met through the cross-party Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK during 2014's independence referendum.

One founding member, John Mortimer, told BuzzFeed News that "a few dozen" unionist activists have joined together with the intention of getting at least one MSP elected to the Scottish parliament in May to "challenge the complacency" of the three main pro-Union parties.

"Politics in this country has changed forever – it used to be left and right but for the foreseeable future it's going to be unionism and nationalism," said 26-year-old Mortimer. "I don't think the mainstream unionist parties have responded to that.

"They're still arguing against each other, splitting the vote, and they're never going to come together because they're the big UK parties. We have to take that step ourselves, take a strong stance on the union, and give people a truly unionist option in May."

In 2014, the Better Together campaign united the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats and has been credited as a major factor in Scottish Labour's near-wipeout in last year's general election. Since the referendum, all three parties have argued for varying levels of devolution to Scotland.

"We feel that the mainstream unionist parties are all going down the path of devolution – the Tories are asking for more powers, the Lib Dems are asking for federalism, and Labour want devo-max.

"That's only unionism in its loosest sense. We view it as a spectrum with independence on one hand and the union on the other, and the other parties are getting to the stage where they're closer to independence than unionism."

The party will field "a handful" of candidates in May and said the campaign will be funded by its "grassroots" members. It describes itself as "centrist", made up of a roughly equal mix of former Labour and Conservative voters, although the party opposes the austerity measures of the Conservative government.

Alongside its main policy of a closer union with the rest of the UK, the party will argue for keeping the "vital" Trident nuclear deterrent in the Scottish naval base of Faslane, disarming Scottish police officers on routine patrol, and introducing a high-income tax rate of 50p in the pound.

It also calls for the union flag to be flown on all Scottish government buildings alongside the saltire and it wants the royal coat of arms, which was removed from Scottish government documents in 2007, to be restored.

"We'd be delighted if we could have a single MSP elected to challenge the complacency of the mainstream unionist parties," said Mortimer. "In the long term, we feel that's what needs to be done in the battle to save the union."

Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.

Contact Jamie Ross at jamie.ross@buzzfeed.com.

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