Conservative leader Ruth Davidson: Just 12% of Scottish homes contribute to economy

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: PA
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: PA
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SCOTTISH Tory leader Ruth Davidson has claimed just 12 per cent of Scots households make a net contribution to the economy.

She is set to tell a Scottish fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today that it is “staggering” and “frightening” that 50 per cent of GDP is public-sector expenditure and brands the country a “gangmaster state”.

Ms Davidson’s remarks will come as Chancellor George Osborne reveals his latest cutbacks to the welfare state, announcing plans to cut £10 billion from the welfare budget by 2016-17.

Last night, Ms Davidson’s attack was dismissed by economists and political opponents. The SNP likened it to US presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s remarks, where he said 47 per cent of the US electorate did not count because they did not pay income tax. Romney admitted he was “completely wrong”.

A leading economist also said there was “no proof” to support Ms Davidson’s conclusion.

Extracts of the speech were released by the Tories ahead of Ms Davidson’s address at the conference today. In the most controversial passage, she questions almost nine out of ten Scottish households’ financial contribution to society.

The figure of 12 per cent of households making a net contribution comes from official figures produced in the annual Government Expenditure Revenue Scotland (Gers) report and factors in groups such as pensioners, the unemployed and students.

However, other tables in the same report suggest the figure for net contributors could be as high as 34 per cent.

Ms Davidson is due to say: “It is staggering that public-sector expenditure makes up a full 50 per cent of Scotland’s GDP and only 12 per cent of people are net contributors, where the taxes they pay outweigh the benefits they receive through public spending.

“Only 12 per cent are responsible for generating Scotland’s wealth. I wonder how many of them work on public-sector contracts. It’s not just staggering, it’s frightening.”

Ms Davidson will highlight areas of high welfare dependency to underline a failure in Labour and SNP policies.

She is expected to say: “Take Glasgow – never mind the Science Centre or the Armadillo, go to Germiston, Springburn or Barmulloch and tell me Labour has looked after those who have dutifully lent their support over the decades.

“Yet Labour and the SNP still blame the Conservative Party for the problems they have created – and are continuing to create.

“Only the Scottish Conservatives genuinely believe that removing the restraint of government diktat is the best way to build strong communities and of lifting disempowered people out of the depression of dependency which has held our country back for so many years.

“And don’t let anyone tell you that the SNP is anything other than a centralising, big-state, old Labour with a tartan trim, waving a government-distributed Saltire.”

She will also condemn “the rotten system of patronage which denies so many people real choices in their lives”, and say it “has created a corrosive sense of entitlement which suits its political gangmasters”.

Ms Davidson is expected to add: “We need to encourage our entrepreneurs, reward those hiring more staff, hang out a big sign saying, ‘Scotland’s open for business’. Instead, what do we have? A Scottish Government who’ve hammered business with £100m of Scotland-only taxes.”

And she will add: “If the gangmaster state is the only provider people can see for their housing, education and employment, it’s no surprise those who seek to break the stranglehold find barriers in their way.”

Last night, John McLaren, of the Centre for Public Policy for Regions, said: “If you look at the official figures in Gers, then the percentage of Scotland’s public-sector spending to GDP is slightly less than the rest of the UK if you include North Sea oil and slightly more if you do not, but not enough to make much difference.”

Last night, opponents called on Ms Davidson to apologise for “insulting Scotland”.

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “This is Ruth Davidson’s Mitt Romney moment. At least Mitt Romney only insulted around half of Americans, though, while Ruth Davidson believes almost 90 per cent of Scots do not ‘contribute’ to society. It is an outrageous slur, and Davidson should apologise to the people of Scotland.”

Labour also waded in, saying that Ms Davidson should acknowledge the Thatcher government’s role in putting people on out-of-work welfare.

Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran said: “It is an extraordinary and shameful piece of revisionism to absolve the Thatcher Government of any blame for the deep problems now rooted in our communities.”