The Conservatives have responded to Alex Salmond’s new party with the offer of a meeting with other political parties to discuss how they can work together.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has sent letters to the leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrats this morning, and has launched a Unionist manifesto asking all major parties to back it to show unity against the threat of independence. We have asked for a link to the published manifesto but so far have been unable to find it. If you can then please share it in the comments section below.

Mr Ross said: “On the first day of my campaign, I said we had to rediscover the Better Together spirit and unite to stop an SNP majority and another divisive referendum.

“The prospect of that referendum, held without the UK Government’s consent, has increased dramatically with the formation of Alex Salmond’s party. This new nationalist party is designed solely to deliver an independence super-majority.

“The threat of a Scottish Parliament focused entirely on breaking up the UK for the next five years, instead of on the essential task of rebuilding our country, is now very real.

“We must meet this new threat with an equally strong response.

“This manifesto can be the starting point for greater co-operation between pro-UK parties, nothing is off the table.

“Its pledges are simple and reasonable. We would agree to vote against a second referendum, rule out any kind of deal whatsoever with the SNP, and agree to form a pro-UK, anti-referendum coalition government in the next Scottish Parliament term.

“As the biggest opposition party, the Scottish Conservatives will stand up to the SNP and stop their push for another referendum right across Scotland, no matter what.

“But if we can work with other pro-UK parties to further our chances of preventing a nationalist government, we will do so.

“I urge the other party leaders to put aside our differences, just as we did in 2014 when we united as Better Together, to once again say no, defeat nationalism and secure Scotland’s place in the UK.

“We cannot avoid this fight, we must first defeat this fresh drive towards a second independence referendum, so that we can have a Scottish Parliament focused 100% on rebuilding Scotland.”

Responding to comments from Douglas Ross this morning, Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign chair Alistair Carmichael MP said: “Lib Dems will work with others to deliver a constructive and ambitious plan for recovery but Douglas Ross’s politics are far too dark and divisive.

“We will focus on winning seats and ensuring that the next government is focused on putting the recovery first, not independence.

“As a football referee Douglas Ross has a knack for uniting the fans of opposing teams.  As a party leader he seems to do the exact opposite.”

Anas Sarwar issued a letter in response:

Dear Douglas, 
As you know, the Scottish Labour Party does not support Scottish independence or a second referendum.
This election is about taking Scotland forward – we deserve better than your desperate attempts to take us back to old arguments and the politics of the past.  
In case you hadn’t noticed Scotland is in the middle of a pandemic. 
This election is not some kind of game, it is about focussing on a national recovery.
This election cannot be about an SNP psychodrama. 
It cannot be about Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond settling old scores.
And it cannot be about your petty agenda of game playing.
This election must be about the people of Scotland, their families and a national recovery.
As you have recognised yourself, one of the largest threats to the Union is the leader of your own party.
Scotland has had enough of divisive politics which you and Nicola Sturgeon share.  
Both you and the SNP want to waste time and energy on the imagined conflicts that divide us.
But in Scotland, child poverty has risen – and was rising before the pandemic hit.
This is among countless issues where the blame lies at the feet of both your party in Westminster and the SNP at Holyrood.
A heartbreaking example of how the obsession with past disagreements fails people today.
Rather than entertain your latest desperate plea for attention, I am focusing our energy on what matters – guaranteeing a fairer recovery and a stronger Scotland.
Scotland deserves a better government and – as your letter demonstrates – it deserves a better opposition.
Anas Sarwar Leader of the Scottish Labour Party