Rishi Sunak was asked by a Conservative Party member how he would “suppress” Nicola Sturgeon.

The candidate appeared alongside rival and front-runner Liz Truss in the 12th and final Tory election before party members vote to decide who will become Britain’s next prime minister.

The former chancellor faced questions from Conservative Party members and LBC presenter Nick Ferrari in London on Wednesday night.

At the end of the event, a party member told Sunak that the unity of the United Kingdom should be a key point for the next Prime Minister.

READ MORE: Former Scottish Tory councilor ‘voted for Liz Truss in leadership election’ despite party ban

He said: “Seeing the riot which ONP running for parliament, and the strange statements coming from their leader in Edinburgh, how are you going to stifle Nicola Sturgeon?’

The question drew applause from the audience and Sunak laughed before replying: “That’s a great question. So I think when it comes to Scotland there are probably three things that I would say to all of you that I would do as Prime Minister.

“I think that firstly, we need to be more proactive in demonstrating the benefits of the UK government in Scotland.

“And that’s what we started doing with Michael Gove and myself, working together with Alistair Jack, to demonstrate that the UK Government is investing in Scottish communities for the first time, and that’s changed the conversation. He also said what he would call “a failure of Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership” as he criticized the Scottish Government’s performance in schools and hospitals, which he said were “not working as well as they should be”.

Liz Truss took a different tone than Rishi Sunak at Tori’s competition

“The second thing to remember when it comes to the Union in Scotland,” he continued, “is who are we talking to?

“Well, we’re not just talking to ourselves, we’re not just talking to conservatives, right? We need to talk to all the other people in Scotland who don’t vote Conservative but are Unionists. That’s why we need a leader who can talk to them. And I believe that I can.”

Sunak said the third and most important thing to remember is that “nationalism is an incredibly seductive and romantic idea.”

If union figures respond only with arguments about the currency, borrowing or who will pay for pensions, or issues around trade, “it will not be enough”.

Ferrari asked Sunak if he thought Sturgeon was an attention seeker and if Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford was low energy Jeremy Corbynpointing to previous comments by Liz Truss.

Sunak replied: “I think in all these cases we have to respect the fact that these are the legitimately elected leaders of Scotland and Wales, that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom obviously has to work with them and constructively and demonstrate that to the people of Scotland, that we can work with them.


“But what should we as conservatives do? We need to fight them and defeat them. That’s what we need to do.”

It marks a stark difference in tone from rival and front-runner Truss, who was asked about her comments insulting incumbent leader Sturgeon and Drakeford as well as French President Emmanuel Macron.

​​​​​​​Despite previously saying that the “jury is still out” on whether Macron is “friend or foe”, the foreign secretary refused to answer whether former US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were “friends or enemies”

When Ferrari read out her remarks about the devolved leaders, who saw the Wembley crowd applaud, Truss said: “By the way, I still agree with myself.”

Truss also claimed there would be no new taxes or energy rationing if she became prime minister, as she dropped hints of further cost-of-living support.

READ MORE: Brian Cox tells Nicola Sturgeon that Scotland has never been more ready for independence

The Tory leadership candidate has reiterated that her two priorities are tax cuts and securing Britain’s energy supply as people across the country struggle with cost shocks.

She added that the third priority would be a spending decision in the form of a budget or “fiscal event”, telling the audience: “At the fiscal event, the chancellor will deal with support for households.”

Asked by Ferrari whether she would agree to no new taxes, as outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson did, Ms Truss said: “Yes, no new taxes.”

Voting in the Tory leadership contest closes at 5pm on Friday and the winner will be announced on Monday.

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