Scots Tory leader urges focus on Brexit benefits


The Scottish Conservative leader has called for Scotland to focus on making the best of the opportunities offered by Brexit.

Ruth Davidson said she believed Brexit will be "much softer than many people fear".

She said she did not want to downplay the challenges but urged politicians to ensure Scotland is ready to capitalise on the advantages of leaving the European Union.

She said the biggest challenge the country faces is not Brexit, but creating stable economic growth.

The MSP put forward ideas for Scotland once it leaves the EU, including setting up a more streamlined support system for the country's farmers to ensure funding goes towards less-favoured agricultural areas.

She also proposed setting up an environmental court which she said would give people easier access to justice.

Delivering her David Hume Institute Lecture in Edinburgh, one of a series by Scottish political leaders on life after Brexit, Ms Davidson said: "While it may not seem like it - especially this week - there will be life after Brexit.

"While the Westminster soap opera drags on that is no excuse for inaction here in Scotland and it will not do to simply blame Brexit for everything.

She added: "With Brexit comes new choices - and we must start actively preparing the ground to take advantage of those choices where we can.

"More importantly, with the huge powers at the Scottish Government's disposal, we must capitalise on Scotland's strengths in research and innovation to deliver lasting economic growth.

"We must look to ourselves - and if all we hear from Scottish ministers here is a counsel of despair, we will miss the opportunities which are in our grasp.

"We must ask how we can contribute, not recriminate."

"Scotland has been on pause for far too long. Almost my entire career in Parliament has been taken up either with political campaigns or questions of constitutional process," Ms Davidson continued.

"And I think we need to do so much more. We need to start focusing on the biggest challenge we face of all and I don't think that's Brexit but finding a path to real and sustainable economic growth, because nothing else comes close."

In response to questions from the audience, she said a "consensus" is forming over regulatory alignment.

She added: "For all a lot of people are talking about a hard Tory Brexit, actually this will be a much softer Brexit that some people fear."