David Cameron will claim the Conservatives are the only party capable of challenging the SNP’s dominance when he warns that Scotland risks becoming a “one-party state”.
In his speech to the Scottish Conservative conference at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, the Prime Minister will attempt to use the demise of Labour north of Border to position his party as the main opposition in Scotland. Last night Mr Cameron’s attack on the SNP drew an angry response from the Nationalists , who accused the Prime Minister of “lecturing Scotland” and urged him to drop his “austerity agenda”.
Today Mr Cameron will tell the Scottish Conservative grassroots: “We’re “We’re the party that can challenge the SNP – now the only party that can challenge the SNP. They’ve been in power for nine years – they are the establishment. With Labour’s collapse, Scotland is in danger of becoming a one-party state.”
In a hard-hitting critique of the SNP’s domestic record, Mr Cameron will say efforts to improve children’s educational attainment were “stagnating”, while college student numbers were falling.
He will draw attention to the recent revelation that the Scottish Funding Council intends to halt funding for its programme to help poorer students get to university.
On the NHS, he will claim the SNP has failed to increase health spending.
“Then there’s the mess of the law that bans football songs. There’s the lost accountability of merging eight police forces into one,” he will say. “There’s the abolition of Right to Buy – yes, even though Nicola Sturgeon’s family benefited from it, she’s saying that you can’t.
“There’s even the absurd named-person policy, which ensures every child is allocated a guardian – even if they have parents; even if they have no need for this extra layer of bureaucracy.
“Well I’ll tell you who needs a guardian – someone to keep them in check – it’s the SNP. And it falls to us, the Conservatives, the only party fit to expose these spendthrift, out-of-touch, dogmatic, inept Nationalists for what they really are.”
The conference will also see Scottish leader Ruth Davidson call for the SNP to commit to a new “NHS guarantee” to ensure spending on health rises by whatever is highest –inflation or the extra funding coming from Westminster.
Ms Davidson will claim that between 2010 and 2015 spending on health rose in England by 7 per cent, but just 1 per cent in Scotland.
According to Ms Davidson, implementing the guarantee would see health spending rise by more than £1 billion by the end of this decade.
The last major Tory gathering in Scotland before the May Scottish election will also see splits in the party over Europe come to the surface.
Former defence secretary and prominent member of the Leave campaign Liam Fox will speak at a fringe event before Mr Cameron makes his keynote speech.
Speaking ahead of the fringe meeting, Dr Fox criticised the Prime Minister’s stance on Europe and warned that the perception that the UK government was attempting to “rig” an In vote would make it difficult for the party to unite after the June referendum.
He said the UK government must “not abuse its position and use the mechanics of the state in an inappropriate way”.
He added: “After the referendum – whatever happens – people have to believe it was fair and valid.”
Last night, the SNP reacted to Mr Cameron’s speech by attacking the UK government’s record.
SNP business manager Derek Mackay said: “The SNP stand proud on our record in government and the daft comments of the Tory Prime Minister on his day trip to Scotland reveal just how out of touch he is.
“The SNP is committing £180 million to tackle the attainment gap between rich and poor in our schools while the Tories’ continued obsession with austerity risks forcing more and more families and children into poverty.”