Scotland's Davidson Girds for Fight as Support for Independence Rises



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ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND —Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, returns to politics on Saturday with a vow to resist any new referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.

The Conservatives in pro-EU Scotland have seen their poll support slip over their handling of Brexit, coinciding with Davidson's six-month maternity leave, while support for the pro-independence Scottish National Party has risen.

On Friday the results of elections for seats on local councils in England, the biggest of the UK's four nations, provided stark evidence of how the fallout from Britain's 2016 vote to leave the European Union has undermined the two biggest parties, Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour.

Meanwhile, support for Scottish independence has risen to its highest point in the past four years, largely driven by voters who want to remain in the European Union, according to a YouGov poll published in the Times last week.

"I'll make a firm guarantee now: If I am elected Scotland's next first minister, there will be no more constitutional games and no more referenda. We've had enough to last a lifetime," Davidson will tell delegates at the Scottish Conservative conference, according to advance comments.

Scotland, England's political partner for more than 300 years and part of the United Kingdom, rejected independence by 10 percentage points in a 2014 referendum. But differences over Brexit have strained relations with the government in London.

Davidson's straight-talking politics has made her a favorite of moderate Conservatives and given her high public approval ratings, while infighting has whittled away the authority of the prime minister and the standing of some of her rivals.

May addressed the conference in Aberdeen on Friday.

On returning to work this week after giving birth to baby Finn, Davidson, 40, again said she does not want to be prime minister but speculation continues to swirl — despite her currently not having a seat in the Westminster parliament but sitting as a member of Scotland's devolved assembly.

In an interview with Scottish politics magazine Holyrood, she was characteristically candid about the impact of motherhood and the kind of changes it has meant to her life, describing the effects of "bone-crushing" sleep-deprivation.

She said she had put her job before family and friends in the past, but being a mother had changed her priorities. "I don't think for one second (my job) will come before Finn."