Ruth Davidson has used a keynote speech marking the first anniversary of her becoming leader of the Scottish Conservatives to attack what she claims is an “overbearing” SNP government that “overtaxes” people.
She also said her party could campaign for a tax cut of more than 1p when new powers come to Holyrood.
Ms Davidson said the Scottish Government “spends too much in our name”, as she set out the clearest policy direction for her party since she became leader.
She warned Scotland’s public sector had to “recognise its limits” and suggested the current funding deal for universal free services was not sustainable.
Scottish Tories claim the suggested tax cut could be funded by making savings of about £440 million in public expenditure, such as by reducing some universal free services.
However, the SNP claimed a tax cut of more than 1p would mean more than £1 billion being slashed from spending on Scotland’s front-line public services.
Ms Davidson also talked about an “educational divide” between pupils from poorer and wealthier backgrounds, and claimed the SNP’s approach to schools was driven by “narrow nationalism and ideology”.
She said Scotland’s comprehensive schools system “risks entrenching that divide” and called for increased parental choice to allow them to be “full partners in their kids’ education”.
Ms Davidson, who defeated Murdo Fraser in a bitter election that saw her rival campaign for a spilt from the UK Conservatives, said the Scottish party would look at using income tax powers coming to Holyrood in 2016 under the Scotland Act to cut personal tax by more than 1p.
She said: “Scottish Conservatives want to see people keep more of the money they earn and not have it eaten up by excessive government spending. We believe in prioritising the family budget over the government budget.
“That is why we are committed to reducing personal taxation when the power to do so comes to the Scottish Parliament in 2016, and I want us to look further to see if 1p in the pound is all we can afford.”
SNP MSP Sandra White estimated that every 1p reduction in income tax in Scotland would cost £560m, and said a 2p reduction would therefore result in cuts of at least £1.12bn.
She said: “Ruth Davidson must now come clean with people in Scotland and explain exactly what part of the public sector is in the firing line for her £1bn bombshell.”
Ms Davidson criticised what she said was the growth of government in Scotland, saying the more it “takes on responsibility, the more it takes away freedom from us all”. She went on: “That is not to attack the public sector, but simply to recognise its limits. It’s time to halt and reverse the growth of government, because we have reached the point where the extent of the state no longer benefits society but threatens to harm it.”
She called for a shake-up of the education system and hinted at backing for greater powers for parents to choose the school their children attend.
She said: “There is an educational divide in Scotland today. It’s not a divide between able pupils and less-able pupils, or between the state and independent sectors, but between those from better-off neighbourhoods and those from poorer backgrounds. Our schooling suffers stagnation under a government driven by narrow nationalism and ideology.”