Ruth Davidson: No to indyref2 'in my political lifetime'

You can see Peter MacMahon's interview with Ruth Davidson on tonight's Representing Border. Credit: ITV Border

The 'Toxic Tories'. It was a perfect piece of political alliteration, deployed ad nauseam by the Scottish Conservatives' opponents. And for a long time it was an accurate description of the party's predicament.

Wiped out by Labour in the 1997 election, there was an certain irony in the Conservatives being saved from oblivion by the proportional voting system for Holyrood, a parliament whose establishment they once opposed.

But even after 1999, the Tories struggled to have much impact north of the Border.

The battle appeared to be between the SNP and Labour, sometimes helped by their one-time Holyrood coalition partners and fellow Unionists the Lib Dems.

How times change, or perhaps more accurately, how they changed eventually.

Following the Independence Referendum the Conservatives have finally experienced a revival, coming second in the last Holyrood election and the local government poll that followed this May.

Labour has gone from being the party of power in the Scottish Parliament and council chambers to third place, the victim of the constitutional squeeze.

Caught between between the right-of-centre Tory Unionists and the left-of-centre SNP nationalists, Labour has struggled to seem relevant in modern Scottish politics.

With that background, this UK general election must, in theory at least, be another major opportunity for what is still formally the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party.

But there is always a difference between political theory and practice. A difference the Tories' Scottish leader Ruth Davidson is well aware of.

Remember, that before the dreadful events in Manchester, polls suggested that Labour, under supposedly 'unelectable' Jeremy Corbyn, was closing on the Tories under 'strong and stable' Theresa May.

No-one can say how the political winds would have blown had the attack last week not happened, but the Prime Minister's U-turn on social care in England has certainly had an impact, making her look - to some at least - indecisive.

As a result of that U-turn this election is now at least a bit more unpredictable, including in Scotland.

I've just sat down with Ms Davidson to ask some of the questions ITV Border viewers wanted her to answer - on everything from Brexit, to indyref2 and fox hunting.

I asked her about a second independence referendum and the 'now is not the time' official policy.

The suspicion is that the Tories simply do not want indyref2 ever, and Ms Davidson comes pretty close to agreeing.

The Scottish Conservative leader told me that she hopes there won't be another Scottish independence referendum in her political lifetime.

She added there might be another vote some time in "the next 99 years", but there wasn't an appetite for indyref2 now.

I also put the severe criticism to Ms Davidson that she supported the so-called 'rape clause' - where women have to state if they had 'non-consensual sex' to get tax credits if they have more than two children.

You can judge for yourself whether the Tory leader looked uncomfortable on this issue, but she did defend the overall policy of limiting some benefits to two children.

Among other questions, I also asked her about not supporting the idea in the UK manifesto of means-testing pensioners on the winter fuel benefit.

Why should pensioners in, say, Dumfries continue to get the benefit whatever their income while some across the border in Carlisle (where it's just as cold in winter, or warm depending on your point of view) might have it cut?

You can see her answer in full but it can best be summed up as saying "that's devolution for you, there are other differences north and south of the Border".

For Ms Davidson the key to this election is whether she and her party can continue to exploit their key message that a vote for them is a vote against a second independence referendum.

For her opponents it's whether they can, to use a word which may not even be a real word, 're-toxify' the Scottish Tories.

I put it to Ms Davidson that the SNP and others want to paint her as a backer (now) of a hard Brexit, harsh benefit cuts, budget reductions for Scotland and a supporter of the 'rape clause'.

How does she respond?

She told me:

You can see the interview in full on tonight's Representing Border.