Scottish Conservatives launch manifesto to ‘rebuild Scotland’

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said Scotland’s recovery would be crippled by another independence referendum at his party’s manifesto launch.

Douglas Ross
Douglas Ross

The Scottish Conservatives have launched their manifesto for the Holyrood elections, pledging to “rebuild Scotland” and stop another independence referendum.

Leader Douglas Ross said creating jobs would be his party’s priority in the next parliament but warned the country’s efforts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic would be “crippled” if the SNP continue to focus on independence.

The manifesto contains plans for £500 grants to help unemployed Scots to retrain.

He also announced plans to abolish Scotland’s higher rate of income tax “when public finances allow”, increasing the threshold from £43,663 to match the UK Government’s level of £50,270.

The revised income tax threshold would increase the take-home pay for 1.1 million of Scotland’s highest earners, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

A total of 15 proposed Bills have also been unveiled, including a “Victims Bill” to end automatic early release, introduce whole life custody sentences and end the not proven verdicts that are unique to the Scottish justice system.

Speaking at the launch of the manifesto in Glasgow, Mr Ross said: “Independence will be the SNP’s priority.

“If they are elected with a majority, they will take that mandate as free rein to drive forward their obsession at the earliest opportunity.

“We cannot trust the SNP to deliver our recovery.

“We cannot rebuild Scotland, while we are crippled by the threat of an independence referendum.

“So we need to take that threat off the table.”

On the health service, the Tories said they would guarantee the NHS Scotland budget would increase either by the level of Barnett consequentials or 2% more than inflation every year – whichever figure is higher.

According to current estimates, this would increase the health service’s annual funding by more than £2 billion by 2025-26.

A further £600 million should also be allocated this year for “tackling the backlog of operations and treatment” exacerbated by the pandemic, Mr Ross said.

The Scottish Conservatives have also pledged to increase mental health funding to 10% of the frontline health budget during the next parliament alongside expansions of community-based programmes such as cognitive behavioural therapy, social prescribing, exercise referral schemes and peer support.

Scottish Parliamentary Elections 2021
Scottish Conservative party leader Douglas Ross (left) said Scotland’s recovery would be crippled by the threat of another independence referendum (Jane Barlow/PA)

Outlining education policies, Mr Ross said: “We would invest £120 million this year into a catch-up premium for every school child and set up a national tutoring programme for those children in most need of support.

“And over the Parliament we will give £1 billion directly to schools for tackling the attainment gap.

“To end the SNP’s cuts to teacher numbers, we will recruit an additional 3,000 teachers.

“We would allow every primary school child a free school lunch and breakfast because – as the son of a school cook – I know the importance of nutritious meals to a child’s learning.

“And we would roll out wraparound childcare, to allow kids to take part in exciting out-of-school activities and support their parents to keep a full-time job when their child starts school.”

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