Tory manifesto

Sunak and Ross seek to defy ‘irrelevance’ jibes

Rishi Sunak speaking in Edinburgh (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

Rishi Sunak and Douglas Ross used the launch of the Scottish Tory election manifesto to insist that there were still seats to be won north of the border despite some regarding the presentation as a farewell event for both leaders.

The Prime Minister joined the Scottish leader to promise a “laser-like focus on the real priorities of the public” and a pledge to put independence “to bed”.

However, problems continue to mount for the Conservative party as it slips further behind in the polls. Labour has increased its overall lead to 20 points over the Conservatives. Mr Sunak arrived in Edinburgh on the back of the betting controversy, his decision to leave the D-Day celebrations early and Mr Ross’s decision to stand down as Scottish leader.

Former Tory Cabinet minister Michael Gove added salt to the wounds by likening the row over party insiders betting on the date of the election to “partygate”, which saw Boris Johnson’s No 10 staff investigated over gatherings during the pandemic. Gove said: “It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us.”

Pat McFadden, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has written to the CEO of the Gambling Commission calling for the release the names of figures being investigated as part of its inquiries.

With just 10 days left before polling day, Mr Sunak and Mr Ross played their final hand in Scotland with critics claiming the party is now “irrelevant” north of the border.

Mr Ross is regarded as a lame duck, having become the first mainstream party leader to step down during an election campaign. He will quit as an MSP if he succeeds in getting elected to Westminster.

At a media launch in the Grassmarket, a defiant Mr Ross said the manifesto “provides solutions to the problems caused by years of SNP incompetence and poor decision-making”.

He insisted the Tories could still give the SNP a “bad night” on 4 July, while admitting that the election campaign had become a “tough scrap” and that recent scandals had been “very difficult”.

The party’s priorities are recruiting 1,000 extra GPs to help reduce waiting times and a similar number of police officers, “backing teachers to teach and increasing subject choices for pupils”, cutting income tax and national insurance contributions. It promises to ugrades Scotland’s neglected roads.

All but NIC are devolved issues which has raised questions about why they are included in a Westminster election manifesto.

Douglas Ross will step down as Scottish leader (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

Mr Ross said: “The Scottish Conservative manifesto has a laser-like focus on the real priorities of the Scottish public. It provides solutions to the problems caused by years of SNP incompetence and poor decision-making.

“These are the issues that matter to Scots – but which have been ignored by the SNP as they’ve focused relentlessly on independence.

“Every Scottish Conservative MP elected will be committed to delivering on these policies and the priorities of their constituents.

“Under the SNP, key public services have got worse, while Scotland has become the highest taxed part of the UK. That tax gap is hurting workers, reducing our competitiveness and making it harder for the NHS to recruit and retain key staff.

“This has to change, which is why we’re committed to a 1p cut in the 21p income tax rate, along with further cuts to national insurance.

“This election is a chance to beat the SNP. If voters unite behind the Scottish Conservatives in key seats across the country, we can do that – and end the SNP’s independence obsession for good.”

Ahead of Mr Sunak’s visit, Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray said: “Rishi Sunak will venture to Scotland and lightweight figure Douglas Ross will come out of hiding to try and convince Scots to forget the last 14 years. 

“Voters can see the Scottish Tories’ empty promises for what they are – the desperate last gasp of an irrelevant party.”

SNP candidate for Glasgow North Alison Thewliss said: “It’s good that Rishi Sunak and Douglas Ross will get time…to compare notes on which one has run the worst campaign.

“They are both on their last legs as leaders, their party is already finished in this campaign. The Tories are finished in Scotland, and while a vote for the SNP can send them packing this election.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said: “It’s hard to tell who is having a worse campaign. From Rishi Sunak abandoning D-Day veterans to Douglas Ross facing an activist mutiny and questions over his expenses, it has been an absolutely torrid time for the Scottish Conservatives.

“Based on current form, if they launch their manifesto at a business it’ll catch fire or on a farm it will get flooded.”

Separately, new evidence has emerged that the SNP failed to spend substantial structural fund allocated from the EU.

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Liz Smith MSP said the latest revelation that the SNP was warned of this in 2018 “exposes mismanagement on a colossal scale” and makes a nonsense of [Deputy First Minister] Kate Forbes’s claim that comparisons with other parts of the UK were ‘spurious’.


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