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Scottish Tory leader distances himself from Boris Johnson with swipe at Brexit

Douglas Ross is a Conservative rebel with a cause — aiming to reverse the surge in support for Scottish independence by making clear he is not Boris Johnson.

The Scottish Conservative leader on Monday accused Westminster of undermining the union with a “winner takes it all” approach to Brexit negotiations.

The comments, delivered in a speech at the Policy Exchange think tank, mark the latest attempt to differentiate the Scottish Tories from the U.K. administration led by Johnson, whose own unpopularity in Scotland shows up in polls as a key factor in rising support for independence.

“There is no getting away from the fact that Brexit, and how it has been delivered, has undermined the perception that there are common shared values that unite us,” Ross said. “We did not build a consensus around delivering Brexit. Instead there has been a ‘winner takes it all’ approach.”

Such an approach had, he argued, “alienated former Remain supporters who still feel aggrieved at the referendum result,” with the SNP becoming an “outlet for that anger and frustration” in Scotland.

Ross also called on Johnson to involve First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish government in post-Brexit trade negotiations, as part of a plan to “empower” devolved administrations, and argued for the Scottish government to have a more formal say in the country’s immigration system.

The Scottish Conservative leader warned his Westminster colleagues that the coronavirus pandemic is exposing the “weakest points” of the devolution settlement between Scotland and the rest of the U.K.

Making the case for Scotland to be treated “the same as England” in the support given to workers during the coronavirus pandemic, he urged Westminster to extend its furlough scheme if Scotland follows England into a renewed national lockdown.

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