Scottish Conservatives offer ‘real alternative’ to SNP, Douglas Ross to say

The Scottish Conservatives offer a real alternative to the “failing SNP Government”, the party’s leader will say in a keynote conference speech.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Monday, Douglas Ross will say large parts of Scotland – especially rural and island communities – have been forgotten by the SNP.

He will tell delegates that his party will “deliver opportunity and a fair deal to every part of our country”.

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Mr Ross will also talk about his plans to establish a National College of Scotland and deliver a Rent to Own scheme as he outlines plans to deliver a fair deal for all of Scotland.

Andrew Bowie backed Rishi Sunak during the leadership election, and was critical of Liz Truss's plans
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He is expected to say: “Today we continue to show that on education, economic development, housing and so many other areas the Scottish Conservatives are Scotland’s real alternative to this failing SNP Government.

“That we have the positive ideas and policies to take all of Scotland forward and deliver opportunity and a fair deal to every part of our country.

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“In the SNP’s Scotland, where you live has a huge impact on the quality of life you will have.

“Wages in Moray are nearly half of what people in East Renfrewshire earn, pupils in East Renfrewshire are around two times more likely to get a top grade in their Highers than those in Angus – and the life expectancy of people in Glasgow is six years lower than people in East Dunbartonshire.

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Douglas Ross, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party speaks at the annual Conservative Party conference

“Just think about that – where you live will define your education, your salary and even how long your life will be. How can that be fair in today’s Scotland?

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“Right across Scotland, so many parts of our country are not being given the chance to succeed.

“They are being held back by an SNP Government whose answer to the challenges of delivering services is to centralise into a one-size-fits all approach.”

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The Scottish Conservatives said the National College of Scotland is designed to break down the barriers that geography and life circumstances can create for adults wishing to access higher education.

Specialising in remote teaching, it would be an umbrella body ensuring Scotland’s colleges and universities offer a wide range of online courses so that adults can gain new qualifications while still holding down a full-time job.

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Mr Ross will also talk about the Rent to Own plan, under which tenants would pay market rent for a new-build property from a landlord – who would have to sign up to the scheme – for five consecutive years, after which the tenant could apply to buy it.

To help them do so, the government would provide 25 per cent of the rent paid during the tenancy to go towards their deposit.

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Mr Ross will say that the scheme could be “a step change in helping families who are stuck in rented accommodation and unable to afford the extra that they need to save each month to put down a deposit”.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss said: “Douglas Ross is desperately pitching policy for an election that he is never going to win.

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“We know exactly what the Tories stand for – trashing the economy, savagely cutting public spending and squeezing the poorest to line the pockets of the rich.

“Douglas Ross continually talks down the achievements of the SNP Scottish Government, but it’s the people of Scotland who continue to put their trust in the SNP to deliver for Scotland.”

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Mr Ross also said a second Scottish independence referendum is “completely the wrong priority at the worst possible time”.

Taking part in a discussion panel in hall one at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Mr Ross said: “What I would like to see is actually a Scottish Parliament that uses the immense powers it has right now to deliver for people across Scotland.”

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He added: “Nicola Sturgeon’s priority and the priority of her ministers and of her government, is to put Scotland through another divisive independence referendum in just the next 12 months.

“It’s completely the wrong priority at the worst possible time.”

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Elsewhere, Scottish MP Andrew Bowie warned cutting benefits to fund tax cuts for the richest would not be the “right thing to do”.

He spoke out after the Prime Minister refused to commit to he annual uprating of benefits in line with inflation, during a cost-of-living-crisis.

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The Kincardine and West Aberdeenshire MP said “in principle” it is not the right thing to do.

Mr Bowie also backed claims from the former Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who said he was “profoundly concerned” by the mini-budget, with the funding for tax cuts “not conservative”.

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Asked if Mr Gove is right, Mr Bowie replied: “Yes, he’s right.”

He added: “I share people’s concerns about where we are right now. But I think it’s incumbent on all of us to give the Chancellor the space and the time to expand on those plans and set out more detail, and for us to be able to determine whether or not we support those plans.”

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The MP, who was first elected in 2017, said when Mr Kwarteng and Ms Truss “explain the plans” then the markets will “respond accordingly”.

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Asked if he will be voting for the plans in Parliament amid rumours of a backbench rebellion, the MP refused to say.

He responded: “As I said, we’re going to hear more from the Chancellor exactly what his plans are for the economy this week.

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