SNP and Scottish Conservatives set out rural Scotland plans

THE SNP and the Scottish Conservatives will set out their plans for rural Scotland today, as the parties' leaders travel to both ends of the country on the election trail.

Nicola Sturgeon will be in the Borders to highlight SNP measures to improve digital connectivity. Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon will be in the Borders to highlight SNP measures to improve digital connectivity. Picture: PA

Nicola Sturgeon will be in the Borders to highlight SNP measures to improve digital connectivity, as she campaigns in Hawick with candidate for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, Paul Wheelhouse.

The SNP leader said: “Our economy depends on fast, reliable and future proofed digital infrastructure - and under the SNP Scotland is on track to deliver broadband to 95% of homes and business premises by the end of next year. But I want to go even further than that.”

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Tory leader Ruth Davidson will head north to the Highlands, choosing to launch her rural plans in Cairngorm.

Prioritising an independent inquiry into the delays to Common Agricultural Policy payments which have affected farmers will be among the commitments.

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Ms Davidson said: “Farming is at the heart of Scotland’s rural economy.

“Our producers deserve better than SNP mismanagement.

“That’s why it’s essential the SNP’s CAP payments fiasco is properly investigated.

“This is not just a case of finger pointing - it’s about looking ahead to ensure these mistakes are not repeated.

“We need to identify what went wrong, fix the system and make sure it works in the future.”

Labour MP Ian Murray and Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie will be on the election trail in Edinburgh, campaigning on education and mental health treatment respectively.

Mr Murray will highlight research which the party says shows that its plans to invest in education could mean a £2 billion boost to the Scottish economy and hundreds of millions of pounds more in additional tax revenue.

He said: “The single most important investment any government can make is in education, giving our people the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future and to prepare them to make their own business ideas fly.

“It’s an investment in our single most important natural resource - our people - and it will net billions more for our economy and hundreds of millions more in tax receipts from a higher skilled, higher earning workforce.”

Mr Rennie will call for a “step change” in the way that mental health is treated as he meets therapy animals from Canine Concern Scotland, a charity which supports people with mental health issues and other conditions.

He said: “I have been contacted by constituents with family members who have been forced to wait more than a year for treatment. This is just not good enough.

“Doctors and nurses working in our NHS are doing fantastic work but they are not getting the help they need from the Government. That needs to change. Liberal Democrats will ensure that improving mental health services is a priority for our NHS.”

The Scottish Greens meanwhile will take their campaign to Aberdour, Fife, where Mark Ruskell, the party’s environment spokesperson and MSP candidate for Mid Scotland and Fife, will be joined by local campaigners to highlight the party’s opposition to fracking and coal gasification.