Scottish Parliament Election 2021: Scottish Conservatives launch ‘Fair Share for North East’ manifesto with pledge to rebuild ‘underfunded’ regional economy

The Scottish Conservatives launched their ‘Fair Share for the North East’ campaign today, publishing a “mini-manifesto” that outlined a new billion-pound enterprise agency to help rebuild the region’s economy after the pandemic.

Tory leader Douglas Ross, who is standing a list candidate for the Highlands & Islands, also accused the SNP of giving businesses in the North East a “raw deal”.

The 38-year-old cited new figures that show businesses in the region paid significantly more in business rates than the area got back from the Scottish Government in the five years prior to the pandemic.

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Between 2014 and 2019, businesses in Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Moray and Dundee City paid their councils a total of £2.258 billion.

Over the same perios, however, the same councils only received £2.167 billion in business rates funding from the SNP Government - a difference of £91 million.

Unveiling the campaign in Aberdeen after a visit to a local business, Mr Ross said: “Businesses get a raw deal all over the country from the SNP but it’s even more acute in the North East, where the taxes raised from local businesses don’t find their way back to local services.”

He pledged to create a new North East Enterprise agency backed by £1 billion over the next decade, to boost local council funding, and committed his party to upgrading key infrastructure in the region.

The ‘Fair Share for the North East’ manifesto would see a Scottish Conservative government commit to dualling the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness, as well as reopening local railways - like the Formartine and Buchan Railway and Brechin and Newtonhill stations.

Tory leader Douglas Ross, who is standing a list candidate for the Highlands & Islands, also accused the SNP of giving businesses in the North East a “raw deal”.
Tory leader Douglas Ross, who is standing a list candidate for the Highlands & Islands, also accused the SNP of giving businesses in the North East a “raw deal”.

The party said it would also support a North East freeport bid by investing in port and harbour infrastructure across the region.

The manifesto promised to improve broadband and mobile phone signal across Scotland as well, rolling out full fibre broadband by 2027.

It also pledged to protect local services across the region from centralisation by re-opening the Mulberry Unit at Stracathro and protect rural minor injury units from closure.

Mr Ross said: “The North East has long been the engine for the Scottish economy but the SNP Government doesn’t give it the attention it deserves.

The party said it would also support a North East freeport bid by investing in port and harbour infrastructure across the region.

“We will fight for the fair share that the North East isn’t getting from the SNP. Our local services have been underfunded and infrastructure has been left without the necessary investment.

“Our North East manifesto pledges would create new jobs and invest in the economy, deliver a fair deal for local councils, and upgrade local roads and railways.

“The Scottish Conservatives want to restore power to local communities and reverse the centralisation we’ve seen under 14 years of the SNP.

“Covid has hit all of Scotland hard but the collapse in oil prices has meant a double blow for the North East.

“We are the only party committed to securing oil and gas industry jobs, shown by the Conservative UK Government’s announcement this week of a £16 billion North Sea Transition Deal to safeguard jobs and help develop the energy solutions of the future.

He added: “A vote for the Scottish Conservatives is a vote to choose rebuilding Scotland and getting a fair share for the North East, instead of the SNP’s plans to wreck our economic recovery with a reckless referendum.”

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