Party offers 'another option'
Tories tell SNP: ‘Work with us to boost business’
Murdo Fraser and Rachael Hamilton: offer to work with SNP (pic: Terry Murden)
Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser has urged the SNP to work with his party in order to implement key policy commitments on tax and support for retailers.
After launching the Tories’ Scottish Budget priorities, Mr Fraser said the SNP was failing to fulfil its pledges to voters and businesses.
Delays to cutting air passenger duty, retitled air departure tax by the SNP, have already led to Norwegian Airlines withdrawing services between Edinburgh and New York.
The SNP is struggling to push ahead because the Greens, on which it relies to stay in power, do not support the proposed cut. The Tories, however, believe the tax would deliver an enormous boost for the economy.
Speaking at Edinburgh airport alongside culture and tourism spokesperson Rachael Hamilton, Mr Fraser said: “We are saying to the SNP that we give them another option.”
He said a difference of view on APD/ADT policy, with the Tories wanting a cut only to apply to long haul flights, could be resolved.
The tax is a key element in the Tories’ Budget priority areas which also include support for the High Street and a clear commitment against a second independence referendum.
Mr Fraser said his party was offering a “pro-business alternative” to the Greens, Labour and Liberal Democrats.
The Scottish Conservatives are also calling for the Barnett Consequentials which will flow to Scotland due to health spending decisions in next week’s Budget to go direct to the NHS and social care in Scotland.
Mr Fraser said: “Last year’s Budget deal between the SNP and the Greens was bad for jobs and bad for Scotland’s economy.
“We do not want to see a repeat this year. So today the Scottish Conservatives are making it clear that if the SNP puts the needs of Scotland’s economy first, it could win support from us.
“Central to that is the need for the SNP to dump its plans for a second independence referendum in this parliament. It’s not wanted and Nicola Sturgeon should make clear it’s not going to happen. Doing so would then unlock the way forward.
“Both the Scottish Conservatives and the SNP support action to reduce Air Passenger Duty. Research shows that this could encourage as many as 20 new connections from Scottish airports, massively boosting the economy. So we want to talk to the Government about how it can be brought in.
“We also want to work with the Government to support our High Streets, which are suffering thanks to the massive increase in online retail.
“All that must be underpinned by a competitive tax regime in Scotland that means we no longer deter jobs and investment.
“People are looking for a budget next year that boosts jobs and grows the Scottish economy. The message to the SNP is clear: dump indyref2 and let’s talk.”
Ms Hamilton added: “Creating new links to new destinations would certainly open up opportunities for inward and outbound tourism
“Scotland’s tourism industry spending accounts for £11 billion, which is 4.5% of our GDP.
“All of this forms part of our plans to make Scotland attractive for business, from encouraging more tourism to supporting our high streets as a result of the rapid expansion of online shopping.
“By cutting APD we would attract even more jobs, investment and prosperity and put Scotland well and truly in the map.”
‘Secret’ indyref meetings
Civil servants have drawn up 13 separate briefings for Scottish Government ministers on launching a second independence referendum in the past two years, the Scottish Tories have revealed.
In a Freedom of Information response, officials admitted that “13 documents were identified” as briefings in relation to another separation vote.
The Scottish Conservatives have now called on these files to be revealed in full, after the Scottish Government refused to detail the contents.
The Scottish Government’s FoI response stated: “There is a greater public interest in ensuring high-quality policy and decision-making by government, and this is achieved through allowing ministers and officials the private space they need to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously and to fully understand their possible implications, before a final position is reached.”
The Scottish Conservatives have now submitted an appeal to the Information Commissioner.
Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said: “These secret briefings prove that the prospect of a second independence referendum is never off the SNP’s table.
“The question was settled in 2014. Yet, in the years afterwards, civil servants were still churning out briefings for ministers so they could continue banging the drum for separation in front of the cameras.
“That is irresponsible government.”