Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has made a pitch to young voters, who she thinks are key to rejecting independence in the referendum.
Ms Davidson, who opposed the Scottish Parliament’s one-off decision to lower the voting age limit to 16, said it is now her job to speak to the teenagers who will have a say in September next year.
The referendum offers a choice to “renew a union” which will benefit the next generation, she said in an address to Conservative Friends of the Union.
“The next generation – today’s young Scots – I believe they understand that very well,” she told the small gathering in Edinburgh.
“A clear majority of Scots under the age of 35, and more than half of Scots under the age of 24, reject independence.
“A recent study for the Economic and Social Research Council shows that 60% of 14 to 17-year-olds plan to vote to stay in the UK.
“Is this because the young people of Scotland lack ambition for themselves and their country? Is it because they don’t have the self-confidence to strike out for themselves and make their mark on the world? Quite the opposite.”
In a question-and-answer session later, she stood by her decision to oppose the voting age reduction but pledged to campaign for the support of younger people.
“It is my absolutely my job to speak to people in that age group,” she said.
Ms Davidson’s speech was billed as an attempt to steer the pro-UK argument in a positive direction.
The Better Together parties, which include the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, have been accused by independence campaigners of scaremongering.
The Tory leader said: “Endless claims of scaremongering and negativity do nothing to illuminate the debate and they short-change a public anxious to have the information upon which to make an informed decision.
“We don’t build ourselves up as a nation by tearing one another apart but, equally, we would ill-serve the people of Scotland by failing to ask hard-headed questions about what is being proposed.”
She referred to independence as an “honourable” aim, which she does not support, and that Tories “share the nationalists’ faith in Scotland’s future”.
Tough questions of the pro-independence campaign should not be seen as an attack on Scotland, she argued.
“Explaining why we believe Scotland is well-served by being part of the United Kingdom should not be deliberately misinterpreted as lack of confidence and stating simple truths – like North Sea oil is a diminishing resource whose price is volatile – is not an attack on our native industry, inventiveness and ingenuity upon which our future prosperity depends,” she said.
“The reality is it’s a responsible reminder of the need to plan for a sustainable future on as broad a base as possible.
“It’s not that we think Scotland couldn’t exist as a separate country. We know we could.
“It’s just that we believe our future success is best founded on the partnership of our four home nations which has served us so well in the past.”
She focused on Scotland’s financial services as a positive case for the union.
The industry supports more than 160,000 jobs and accounts for £9.9 billion of business conducted with the rest of the UK, and about 84% of mortgages sold by Scottish firms were to people in the rest of the UK, she argues.
Referring to earlier research published by the UK Government, she says Scottish firms sold 19,075 pension products to Scottish households last year and over the same period sold 186,627 across the rest of the UK.
“I think that puts matters firmly in perspective,” she said.