Tories seeking to ‘stoke culture wars’, claims Yousaf after Sunak’s speech

The Conservatives are seeking to “stoke the culture wars” for political gain, Humza Yousaf has said.

The First Minister hit out at comments Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made on Wednesday in his speech to the Conservative conference.

Mr Sunak used his address to weigh in on debates about sex education and transgender rights.

He told Tory delegates: “We shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be. They can’t, a man is a man and a woman is a woman.”

Mr Yousaf was asked about Mr Sunak’s comments as he spoke to journalists after First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood on Thursday.

Rishi Sunak
The Prime Minister made his conference speech on Wednesday (Danny Lawson/PA)

“The Conservatives have made it very clear that they’re going to stoke the culture wars in order for some perceived political advantage.

“The Prime Minister’s speech has so little in substance and so much in rhetoric.”

Mr Yousaf also said he doubts funding promised by the PM for the A75 road upgrade would materialise.

The First Minister added: “We’re looking forward to a general election, the sooner it comes the better because we’ll go toe-to-toe with them in the battle of ideas.”

Earlier, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross praised Mr Sunak’s rhetoric in the conference address, pointing to the benefits Scotland will receive from the scrapping of the HS2 rail link north of Birmingham and subsequent spending on upgrades to the A75.

Writing in the Scottish Daily Mail on Thursday, Mr Ross said: “Rishi Sunak’s speech to conference showed bold ambition, a willingness to be radical and to take on vested interests.

“It’s clear that he relishes the prospect of the next election, believes that the Conservatives have a strong programme to offer, and is not afraid to make decisive long-term choices that will create a better future.”

He drew comparisons between Mr Sunak and Mr Yousaf, who he claimed is “still peddling the continuity policies that have failed Scotland” since the SNP took power and pushing independence.

The Scottish Tories, Mr Ross added, is the “only party providing robust opposition” to the SNP.

In recent months, the Tories have been lagging behind Labour in the polls in Scotland ahead of the general election expected next year.

Mr Ross added: “Thanks to Scotland’s position as an integral part of the UK, we will benefit from this with funding and improved connectivity.”

Other than the pledge to upgrade the A75 – which links the ferry port at Cairnryan to the north of England – the Scottish Government is unlikely to see further funding increases related to Mr Sunak’s infrastructure announcements, given the Prime Minister said he would spend the money already allocated to HS2 extension on transport improvements.

Through the Barnett formula, spending increases in England that are under devolved competence elsewhere in the UK trigger an increase in funding – known as a Barnett consequential – to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, meaning the HS2 funding would come to the devolved administrations regardless of how it was spent.

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