The Scottish Tories launch their manifesto this morning. In this Platform piece Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Conservative Spokesman on Enterprise & Lifelong Learning, puts the case for voting Tory on 3rd May. Tomorrow William Graham AM will make the Conservative case to the voters of Wales.
Scottish Voters would be forgiven for thinking that this 3rd election to the Scottish Parliament is all about the Union between Scotland and England. It is understandable, since the media have focussed almost entirely on the personal battle between Alex Salmond and Jack McConnell, and on their respective, and equally misleading, contributions to the debate over whether Scotland is a financially viable independent country.
It is unfortunate, because in Scotland the same debate has been going on for 30 years now, and most of us find it rather sterile. On the one hand, we have the Labour Party belittling Scotland, telling us that Scotland and its people are good enough to be independent, aren’t smart enough, don’t have enough good ideas. On the other hand, we have the SNP patronising Scotland, telling us that all the ills of Scotland are the fault of England, and if only we were independent everything would be fine.
It’s important that people know there’s more to this Election. The constitutional issue should really be peripheral to what this election is really about – after all barely a quarter of Scots support independence. This election is about issues. It’s about the first eight years of the Scottish Parliament not delivering for the people of Scotland.
That’s why the Scottish Conservatives are focussing relentlessly on the issues that matter most to Scots. Issues like promoting more affordable housing through local trusts, especially for our young people and their families trying to get their first foot on the ladder. Issues like defeating drugs and cutting crime, through substantial investment in drugs rehabilitation programmes and putting more police on our streets. And issues like standing up for families by promoting flexible childcare, and local healthcare.
We have a solid policy platform based on the ‘bread and butter’ issues that are the voters’ real concerns. And we are offering to lighten the tax burden on Scots. We are pledging a 50% cut in the Council Tax for all pensioner households, and a substantial rates relief scheme for small businesses which will mean that more than 100,000 will pay no business rates at all.
We will start to tackle the lack of growth in the Scottish economy and the dominance of the public sector (currently more than 50% of GDP) by privatising Scottish Water as a mutual company, and driving through ambitious but realistic efficiency savings. We will re-empower local government by ending ring-fencing of central funds, except for policing, and have laid out a truly localist agenda.
We are fighting this Election on the issues that matter. This election is about delivery, not divorce. And we are showing people that Scottish Conservatives are their voice in Parliament.