Douglas Ross and Tories say working more hours and lowering taxes the key to improving Scotland's economy

Douglas Ross has unveiled his party’s new economic strategy

Proposals to encourage people to work longer hours and encourage those with long-term illnesses to get back into work are key to Douglas Ross’s new economics strategy.

The Scottish Conservative leader unveiled his party’s strategy on Tuesday, which they have called “Grasping the Thistle”.

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At a launch event in Edinburgh, Mr Ross used a keynote speech to give a scathing attack on the SNP Government, saying an alternative way of generating revenue needs to be looked at.

Douglas Ross unveils the Scottish Conservatives' new economic strategy in Edinburgh. Image: Andrew Milligan/Press Association.Douglas Ross unveils the Scottish Conservatives' new economic strategy in Edinburgh. Image: Andrew Milligan/Press Association.
Douglas Ross unveils the Scottish Conservatives' new economic strategy in Edinburgh. Image: Andrew Milligan/Press Association.

Part of his strategy is a call to lower taxes so they are in line with the rest of the UK, as the Tories say the higher taxes north of the border is a “disincentive” to Scots working longer hours. They say Scots work “slightly less” on average than those in the rest of the UK – 32.8 hours a week compared to 33.2 hours.

The report says: “Were Scotland to match the UK averages for employment and hours worked per week, this would be worth an additional 2.8 million hours of work per week, or £6.1 billion to our economy.”

It also suggests those who are not in work because of long-term illnesses, including those with long Covid, could be encouraged to go back to work on a part-time basis if there was more support for home and hybrid working. This seems to be in contrast to what the Scottish Government would like to see.

They have provided £10 million to help the private sector trial a four-day working week. Scottish Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba says this should go even further and be extended to include the public sector.

For most this would mean working the same amount of hours they normally would – but doing it over four days rather than five.

A poll for the Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland found 80 per cent believed cutting down to a four-day working week without losing any pay would have a positive effect on their wellbeing.

Other suggestions in the Conservatives’ economic plan include reducing the size of the Scottish Government in a bid to get more people working in the private sector, promoting college qualifications and apprenticeships over university degrees, making sure schools are training pupils to be employable, and guaranteeing funding for adults to retrain.

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Their strategy also includes a number of long-standing infrastructure policies for the party, such as accelerating the roll-out of the R100 programme – the Government’s drive to connect those in rural areas to superfast broadband – as well as sorting out the ongoing ferries fiasco, and dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness.

Mr Ross said First Minister Humza Yousaf must take on the points in his economic strategy when he sets out his programme for government next week.

He said: “The Scotland we live in today is unsustainable – despite the efforts of hard-working staff, our essential services are on their knees, reeling from one winter crisis after another. None of us can afford for things to go on as they are. We need solutions to the big challenges that Scotland is facing, so we cannot have yet another programme for government in the Sturgeon mould.

“Tinkering around the edges for its own sake and focusing on divisive niche issues will not improve the lives of working families. Instead, we need to see some real action.”

Mr Ross said he was “sick and tired of the SNP whining” they are constrained by devolution, and urged them to abandon their campaigning for independence in a bid to boost Scotland’s economy.

Mr Ross said: “Humza Yousaf has a £60 billion budget at his disposal and total control over our devolved public services. Scotland deserves a government that is focused on the real priorities of the Scottish people.

“If we do not act now, then we risk leaving a poorer Scotland to the next generation.”

Predictably, the Conservatives’ economic strategy has been slammed by the SNP and the Greens.

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SNP MSP Rona Mackay said: “While Douglas Ross has taken the Tories backwards from second to third place in Scotland and his government at Westminster presides over austerity and the damage of Brexit, the SNP Government led by Humza Yousaf is delivering important new measures to strengthen our economy and public services.”

Green MSP Ross Greer added: “This isn’t an economic vision for Scotland, it’s a shambolic tribute act to Liz Truss and her disastrous few weeks in office. The last thing Scotland’s public services and economy need is more incompetent Conservative policymaking.

“Douglas Ross has a shocking economic record – he backed Boris Johnson and his disastrous Brexit and then Liz Truss and her catastrophic economic experiments. He must take his share of responsibility for the soaring costs of food, energy and mortgages caused by their policies.”



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