There are no circumstances that could justify holding a second referendum on Scottish independence, Ruth Davidson has said.
The Scottish Conservative leader, who laid out her party's manifesto on Wednesday morning ahead of May's Holyrood election, said the case for independence was "dead" and that she will launch a new drive to safeguard the union this summer.
In a concise speech in Glasgow's City Halls, Davidson made her pitch to voters and asked them to elect her as the official opposition leader in the Scottish parliament. Some opinion polls have shown she has a chance to leapfrog the Scottish Labour party in May, and the SNP is expected to win the election comfortably.
Davidson's speech focused heavily on attempting to win votes from the 55% of Scots who voted against independence in 2014. "Our clear manifesto commitment today is to stand up against a second referendum on independence," said the Scottish Conservative leader.
"Firstly, we do not believe there are any so-called 'indyref triggers' that justify another referendum, and that includes any hypothetical scenario resulting from June's EU decision.
"Secondly, as our manifesto today makes clear, we need to make the counter-case to the SNP. Of course, this is not something that any party alone should undertake, but it is a task that, as the principal opposition party, we would be determined to shoulder."
To make that case, Davidson said she would launch a "fresh initiative" to back the continued existence of the union shortly after the election. Conversely, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said she intends to make a new drive for independence in the coming months.
Sturgeon has also said that the result of the EU referendum in June could justify holding another referendum on independence, going as far as to tell BuzzFeed News last week that Scotland could be an independent member of the European Union by 2018.
Asked by journalists what her new pro-union initiative would look like, Davidson said it would be a "positive case" and added that "Project Fear" – the name the pro-union side gave themselves during the 2014 referendum – was over.
Davidson accepted her party had almost zero chance of winning the election in May, instead laying out her plans for standing up to the SNP after the vote as the official opposition leader. "I would love to be first minister on May 6 and I could run through that pretence, but I'd rather be straight with people," she said.
"Folk aren't daft, they know the likelihood of me moving into Bute House next month is next to nil. They also know that, right now, the SNP are miles ahead in every poll you care to mention, with Labour heading for their worst ever Holyrood result a mile behind.
She added: "As it will state on the ballot paper on May 5, I seek to lead a strong opposition to the SNP."
Scottish Labour's equalities spokesperson said Davidson was trying to distract voters from the Tories' "secret taxes and public services cuts" by focusing on the constitutional arguments of 2014.
"Ruth Davidson wants to take Scotland back to the arguments of the past because she has nothing to say about using the powers to stop the cuts," said Neil Findlay.
"Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish parliament or carrying on the cuts to schools and public services, Labour will use the powers to stop the cuts."
He added: "For all the daft photo ops, Ruth Davidson is the leader of the same old nasty Tory party."
The SNP election campaign director, John Swinney, said: "Only the people of Scotland can and will determine this nation's future constitutional path."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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