Ruth Davidson: Scots must rethink free benefits

SCOTLAND must take a “long hard look” at the commitment to universal benefits such as free prescriptions and university education, Tory leader Ruth Davidson has warned.

David Cameron and Ruth Davidson prepare to launch the Scottish Conservative's manifesto. Picture: Getty
David Cameron and Ruth Davidson prepare to launch the Scottish Conservative's manifesto. Picture: Getty

She was joined yesterday by Prime Minister David Cameron for the launch of the party’s Scottish manifesto in Glasgow. Mr Cameron said Labour was facing a “wipeout” in Scotland in next month’s vote, leading to the “terrible prospect” of an Ed Miliband government “propped up by the SNP”.

Ms Davidson hit out at the “soggy, centre-left consensus” that dominated civic life in Scotland and warned that a revived Tory party was “coming for the SNP and Labour”.

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The party would create 1,000 extra nurses’ jobs with the money created by bringing back prescription charges for those that can afford them – they have been abolished by the SNP – and working parents would get more freedom to choose between state and private sector nurseries for their free childcare through a new voucher system. The party would also reintroduce the right to buy for council tenants, which has been scrapped by the SNP government at Holyrood, and create 10,000 new apprenticeships.

And with Holyrood poised to be handed sweeping new controls over income tax, Ms Davidson called for a rethink in the way Scotland spends its cash.

“It’s time to do things in a different way,” she said. “There’s nothing just about fewer poor kids going to university, bigger subsidies for the middle class to get degrees, while our colleges are being cut to the bone.

“And there’s nothing socially fair about a system that says a First Minister should get their prescriptions for free when our hospitals are understaffed. That’s why we’d use that money for a thousand extra nurses.”

The manifesto, launched at the Emirates arena, contains a mixture of reserved measures which could be introduced after next month’s UK election, as well as devolved measures aimed at next year’s Holyrood election.

They include proposals for a new “parent power” law in Scotland which will allow schools to be run independently from local councils with “parent boards” able to take control, although they will be still be funded by the state.

Mr Cameron said two new facts had emerged during the election campaign. He said: “Fact number one: the Labour Party in Scotland is facing wipeout at the hands of the SNP.

“Fact number two: the Liberal Democrats are facing wipeout in many parts of the country. What that means is that Ed Miliband can only get into Downing Street on the back of support from the Scottish National Party who will exact a terrible price in terms of even more borrowing, even more spending, even more unlimited welfare, even weaker defences.

“That is the terrible prospect that this country faces.”