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Scottish Tory deputy: Boris Johnson has hell of a lot to prove

Jackson Carlaw was speaking in a live debate with the SNP's Keith Brown on Scotland Tonight.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw has launched a scathing attack on Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson, saying he has a "hell of lot to prove" to convince him he can do the job.

Speaking on STV's Scotland Tonight, Carlaw said he is a "sceptic" of the former London mayor, who he accused of "deliberately us(ing) loose language in a way which I find unacceptable".

His remarks came as part of a live debate on independence with SNP deputy leader Keith Brown, on the same day Carlaw revealed his endorsement of Jeremy Hunt in the Conservative leadership race.

The Scottish Tory deputy leader - who stood in as the party's interim leader during Ruth Davidson's maternity leave - earlier praised Hunt's "energy, commitment and substance" and "his resolute defence of the UK".

Keith Brown noted Carlaw's "inability to give a ringing endorsement for the clear favourite to become prime minister", and cited a Johnson premiership as one of the "increasingly obvious" reasons for a fresh independence referendum.

The SNP deputy leader also suggested a second independence vote "may have to be held quicker" than currently envisioned by Scottish ministers, who want the referendum in the second half of 2020.

Jackson Carlaw (right): Boris Johnson's language has been 'unacceptable'.
Jackson Carlaw (right): Boris Johnson's language has been 'unacceptable'. STV

Tuesday night's programme was presented by STV's political editor Colin Mackay, with a format that saw each candidate quizzed before being grilled in turn by each other.

Asked about a recent poll suggesting Boris Johnson as prime minister would create majority support in Scotland for independence, Carlaw dismissed it.

The Scottish Conservative deputy said: "Scotland's future is much, much bigger than the fate of any one politician.

"I remember back in 2014 being told that if Alex Salmond wasn't First Minister there would be much more support for independence.

"I said, look, it's much bigger than Alex Salmond just as it's much bigger than Boris Johnson."

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1438745-majority-would-back-independence-if-boris-johnson-became-pm/ | default

Pressed by Mackay for his personal thoughts on Boris Johnson, Carlaw responded: "He's an intelligent man who deliberately uses loose language in a way which I find unacceptable.

"If Boris does become the leader of the Conservative party, he's got a hell of a lot to prove to me and to the country that he is the right man for the job.

"I'll judge him by what he does in office but I start certainly as a sceptic as to whether he's the right man for the job, which is why I'm backing Jeremy Hunt."

Brown was asked to weigh in on if he truly believed a second independence referendum would happen next year, as the Scottish Government plans.

"There's every chance that will be the case," the SNP deputy leader said.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1438751-jeremy-hunt-nicola-sturgeon-least-wants-me-as-new-pm/ | default

Brown continued: "The reasons for it are becoming increasingly obvious, not least from Jackson's inability to give a ringing endorsement for the clear favourite to become prime minister and leader of his party.

"Nobody trusts Boris Johnson. That's not the basis on which people should vote for independence.

"But it's certainly the case that some people are seeing the absolute chaos that we've seen at Westminster over Brexit now for three years, and they think we can do so much better than this."

Questioned by Carlaw on when a second independence referendum will actually take place, Brown said the Scottish Government has been waiting to see "the shape of Brexit".

He added "the complete incapacity of the Tory government and the Tory party to agree amongst itself" means there is still not enough clarity.

On the planned timing of the second half of 2020 for a second independence referendum, Brown said: "If it's a hard Brexit, it may have to be quicker than that because the detriment to Scotland from a hard Brexit... is absolutely disastrous for Scotland.

"We have to be able to react to the situation we find ourselves in."

The two MSPs clashed on various issues connected to the constitution, including Brexit, the timing of a second independence vote, the appetite for such a vote, and the currency question.

In his opening statement, Carlaw said he had recently taken part in three referendums - the 2011 AV referendum, the 2014 independence vote and the Brexit vote.

"Keith Brown and the SNP haven't accepted any of them," the Scottish Tory deputy said, adding the only recent referendum the SNP have accepted was "the illegal one in Catalonia".

He told Brown: "If you lost the next referendum... you'd start the campaign for the next one the day after that."

The SNP's deputy leader insisted the power to hold a referendum should lie in Scotland, not with "politicians at Westminster" and said "Scotland has what it takes and plenty more besides" to succeed as an independent country.

Brown warned the Conservatives that denying the right of self-determination to Scotland would do the Tories "no favour at all."

Pressed on both prospective prime ministers' - Hunt and Johnson's - statements that they will not allow a second independence vote, Brown said their position was not "sustainable".

"I predict they will fold on this and there will be a referendum," the SNP MSP added.

The showdown between the two party deputies follows an appearance by both men on Scotland Tonight at the end of May, when Brown challenged Carlaw to a full debate on independence.

The Scottish Tory deputy leader agreed, vowing to "murder" the SNP MSP on the issue.

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon's government is progressing legislation through the Scottish Parliament to pave the way to hold a second independence vote by 2021.

But the First Minister has conceded she would need a Section 30 order from the UK Government to "put beyond doubt" Scottish ministers' legal ability to hold an independence referendum.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1438128-snp-and-tory-deputies-go-head-to-head-on-indyref2/ | default

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