Push for local control
Ross plans Holyrood transfer to ‘power up Scotland’
Douglas Ross speaking via Zoom on his plans for a power shift
Scottish Tory leadership contender Douglas Ross said he wanted to “power up Scotland” by shifting control of some Holyrood business to local communities.
Mr Ross, delivering a briefing to the media, said there was “far too much centralisation” of power at Holyrood to a small number of ministers.
He said he wanted to take power out of the hands of ministers, but did not specify which functions would be moved or whether they would be transferred to local authorities.
He said his briefing via a Zoom call was to “give a taste” of what his leadership would be about and over the next few days he will announce more details of the ideas he wants to take forward.
He has already indicated that he wants to ensure the focus of power is not confined to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Today he said Nicola Sturgeon had been right about a “power grab”. However, it it had not been performed by the UK Government but by her own.
“Over 13 years too much power has been drawn into the SNP’s hands in Edinburgh and our regions, cities and towns have lost control,” he said.
“For many communities, in the north of Scotland, in the south of Scotland and around the country, Holyrood in Edinburgh seems as distant as Westminster did in the days before devolution.”
Mr Ross has gathered the 100-nomination threshold required by party rules and should there be no rivals he could be installed on Wednesday evening.
He is seeking to return to the Holyrood chamber and should he be elected leader this week, Mr Ross has asked former leader Ruth Davidson to lead the party at First Minister’s Questions. Ms Davidson has also been appointed to the House of Lords.
I would think it shameful of any leader in Scotland to not aspire to win– Douglas Ross
Mr Ross said his ambitions were to form a government and that the 31 seats currently held at Holyrood was more than the SNP held when it was in opposition prior to the 2007 election.
Asked if he felt he could become First Minister at next year’s election he said: “I would think it shameful of any leader in Scotland to not aspire to win… If you don’t have that ambition why should people vote for you?”
On Finance Secretary Kate Forbes’ call for greater borrowing powers, he said “no one can question that the broad shoulders of the United Kingdom and the borrowing that the UK government has made to get us through this pandemic in each part of our four nations has been substantial and has saved livelihoods.
“The list of interventions by the UK government has been significant in every part of Scotland,” he said.
“The risks that come with that level of borrowing is shared across millions of people across the United Kingdom rather than by a far smaller number in Scotland.
“We have been better with the borrowing powers of the United Kingdom rather than giving greater powers to the Scottish Government.”
Mr Ross said there had been other benefits beyond the borrowing powers of the UK.
“If you look at the reduction in VAT for hospitality, that helps venues in Shetland in the same as those in Cornwall. That shows that the UK government can provide assistance that is matched everywhere… and demands to simply ‘Scotify’ things by the Scottish government take away from the benefits of these schemes.
“People, businesses and industries are grateful for the support they have received from the UK government through Barnett consequentials or directly investing in businesses.”
UPDATE 3 AUG: Mr Ross said he will deliver a jobs plan for Scotland within 30 days of taking over.