CONSERVATIVE leader Ruth Davidson is aiming to end the party’s “stagnation” at the ballot box in Scotland when voters go to the polls at next month’s council elections.
The Tories are pledging to give communities a chance to run their own services, with plans to cut council tax in some areas and allowing local authorities to keep more of the money they raise through business rates.
But the new leader admitted she will not turn the party’s electoral fortunes around overnight.
“I’m not going to turn that around overnight, but it’s a stepping stone on the way to getting us back near to where we should be as a party.
“We’ve been the fourth party of local government since 1992, and for me our target is to make sure that we are the third party. That’s a first step back.”
Ms Davidson, whose party won 131 seats at the last local government election, said her party also had a strong track record as part of council administrations in eight areas. Community and voluntary bodies would be given a right to bid for the running of services under the Tory plans, with an end to the councils’ monopoly in providing them.
Right-to-buy laws on purchasing land and other assets would also be reformed to give local groups “a right of first offer” on sales. The party is also launching individual manifestos for each council area, outlining local priorities on the basis that “what works in Stonehaven might not be right for Selkirk”.
Ms Davidson added: “We are a national party with a local agenda to devolve power closer to communities and the individual. That’s why we want councils to have a greater say over how decisions are made and money is spent.”
She was joined at yesterday’s launch in Edinburgh by the party’s campaign co-ordinators, John Lamont MSP and East Kilbride councillor Graham Simpson.
But Nationalist Kenny Gibson, convenor of Holyrood’s finance committee, said: “Ruth Davidson and the Tories in Scotland clearly don’t understand the hopes and aspirations of the people of Scotland. They have failed to put forward any positive case for voting Tory. Aiming to stagger past the Lib Dems and come third shows the Tories have no ambition for themselves and no ambition for Scotland.”