Election will be ‘fight of our political lives’, says Scottish Tory leader

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Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has said the May election will be the “fight of our political lives”.

Mr Ross used the closing speech at the Scottish Tory conference on Monday to launch his party’s bid for election, outlining a number of policies and attacking the opposition.

With the possibility of an SNP majority opening the door to another vote on independence, Mr Ross described this election as “the most important in the history of devolution”.

A recent poll by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman has the Tories retaining second place, with 20% in both the constituency and regional votes, compared to the SNP on 55% and 42% respectively.

“In under two months’ time we face the fight of our political lives. Every vote will count,” he said.

He added: “It is about nothing less than Scotland’s future.

“About whether we the use the next few years to rebuild and recover from the damaging impact of a global pandemic.

“Or we come out of global health crisis to enter into a self-inflicted Scottish political crisis.”

The party leader also claimed the SNP would hold an illegal referendum if they win a majority and are denied the powers for another poll.

In an 11-point plan earlier this year, the party said it would announce a referendum if there is an SNP majority but the UK Government refused to grant a Section 30 order, effectively daring Westminster to challenge it in the courts.

He told members his party was the only one holding to account the “rotten, festering SNP government”, adding: “In 2016, we became the main opposition, little did we know that throughout this parliament we would be the only opposition.”

Mr Ross said his party would seek to hire 3,000 more teachers, end rough sleeping by 2026 and create £500 retraining accounts for every adult in the country.

He also proposes a raft of criminal justice reforms such as the wholesale repeal of the new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, which was passed last week, ending the presumption against short sentences, introduce whole life sentences and scrap the not proven verdict.

Mr Ross also put forward a plan to enhance the free childcare expansion of the Scottish Government – which has pledged to increase free childcare to 1,140 hours for pre-school children.

“This will help parents who want to work but cannot do so because expensive childcare costs do not make it worth their while,” the Tory leader said.

“With this transformative change to how we deliver funded childcare we can help to tackle the gender employment gap.

“Giving opportunity to thousands of Scottish women, who are disproportionately affected, with the promise that they do not have to give up on their job to look after their child.”

SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “Douglas Ross’s speech is typical hypocrisy from the Tories.

“A party which has form for dodging transparency, and was recently found to have acted unlawfully by handing out billions in contracts to friends and Tory donors, is in no position to talk about sleaze.

“Boris Johnson and his Tory colleagues have made it clear that the future they want for Scotland includes a hard Brexit which devastates our economy, cuts to our NHS and public services, lower food and environmental standards, and taking a wrecking ball to the hard-won powers of devolution.

“With both votes SNP in May, we can put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.”

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