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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 June 2007, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Tory claims MSPs back referendum
Richard Cook
Mr Cook said he supported a referendum on independence
The vice chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party has suggested some of his party's MSPs are willing to back an independence referendum.

Richard Cook said he supported a referendum to "clear the air" over Scotland's constitutional future.

A spokesman for party leader Annabel Goldie said she did not back the poll and that it was not "on their radar".

The SNP has given itself 100 days in power to deliver a white paper for a referendum on independence.

Speaking on the BBC Scotland's Politics Show, Mr Cook said that five Tory MSPs were broadly supportive of his views.

In an interview with the Scotland on Sunday newspaper he also said: "I'm personally in support of a referendum bill at the earliest possible opportunity, to remove the uncertainty already being created to business.

"There are plenty of business people who are delaying taking business decisions at the moment, and that is jeopardising Scottish jobs and wealth creation in Scotland.

"My position is that we should be making the positive case for the Union, not the negative case for independence."

'No appetite'

Conservative support for the SNP's plans could help bring a referendum a step closer to reality because of the way the Scottish Parliament is made up.

But Ms Goldie's spokesman said she did not back the poll and wanted to get on with "bread and butter" issues.

"Annabel does not back a referendum," he said "We are solely interested in delivery.

"Barely a quarter of Scots back independence.

"There's no appetite for independence. It's not even on our radar screen."

He added: "This issue was well aired and well debated throughout the election campaign.

"Our position was unequivocal then and unequivocal now."

Bruce Crawford MSP, minister for parliament, said he welcomed any genuine interest in enabling the Scottish people to determine Scotland's constitutional future.

But he added: "Mr Cook's comments seem more focused on internal manoeuvrings and divisions in the Conservative party rather than addressing the opportunities for Scotland."

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