Scottish Parliamentary Election Guide: Conservatives

16 mins read

We break down some Conservative policies that students and young people should be aware of when casting their vote on the 6th of May

The election is merely less than 24 hours away so whether you are an undecided voter or just scoping out other party’s policies, now is the perfect time to familiarise yourself with the party manifesto points that are relevant to you.

Here we take a look at the Conservative manifesto and examine the direction that a Conservative government would take in the next parliamentary term.

Oppose a second referendum on independence and repeal the Referendum Act

The Conservative stance on a second independence referendum is well known, and like all political parties featured in Brig’s manifesto guides, their policy and position on independence is obvious.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives said: “The SNP have made it abundantly clear they will hold another divisive independence referendum, even a wildcat referendum, regardless of what the UK Government says.

“Our position remains the same – the last thing Scotland needs is another independence referendum and we will be doing everything we can to stop an SNP majority, block their illegal and divisive referendum, and put all focus on rebuilding Scotland and supporting Scotland’s recovery.”

Independence features heavily in the manifesto document, in fact more than the NHS which may indicate Tory priorities in this campaign.

Douglas Ross announced that the Tories would scrap the Referendum Act to “remove the remove the threat of the SNP rushing through another independence referendum”.

The Referendum Act came into existence just over a year ago, passing by 68-54, with 2 abstentions.

This Bill gives the Scottish Government power to decide that a referendum on devolved matters can be held in Scotland and to set the rules for the referendum. The rules include who gets to vote and how campaigns are regulated.

Despite UK legislation existing for UK referendums, there was no Scottish legislation to provide a framework for how referendums should be run until the creation of this Act.

As a unionist party and proud of upholding the British Union, the Conservatives are historically unlikely to favour further devolution and perceive the Referendum Act as an easy slippery slope for independence.

Introduce a “subject guarantee” to pupils that allows them all to take at least seven subjects in S4

In conjunction with promising to recruit 3,000 more teachers, the Conservatives have guaranteed that every student in fourth year at high school will be given enough choice of subjects to take at least seven.

The conservatives plan to spend £550m on 3,000 more teachers for Scotland if his party gains power at the upcoming election.

While not reinventing the wheel with the education system, this is a promising guarantee to widen the access of a range of subjects for students in high school, allowing them to gain a broader range of qualifications, and to try out more avenues before considering one’s desired career or ambition. Schools have long faced criticism of not offering certain subjects at certain levels of study for students, so hopefully this will assist in allowing every student subject access, reducing unfair dropping of subjects due to lack of teachers in the field.

The Conservative logic is more teachers, more subjects available to be taught.

“Scotland’s schools were once the envy of the world,” he said. “Now, too many pupils see their ambitions dashed by a system stacked against them,” he said.

“Every year, thousands of Scottish children are unfairly judged by where they live and are left behind, robbed of their chance to succeed because the government puts its own ambitions before theirs.”

He said the SNP would “never choose schools over separation”.

The Conservatives also support free music lessons for children in schools, adding it to their manifesto alongside the SNP, Lib Dems, Greens, and Labour.

Scrapping not proven verdict in Scottish trials, so they have an outcome

Mr Ross said: “We are fully committed to scrapping “not proven”. Many people who have suffered the horror of serious crime have had their pain compounded by this damaging and confusing verdict.

“Having examined this issue in detail, and having listened to victims, it clearly serves no useful purpose in a modern justice system.

“The time is right for Scotland to give jurors the clear choice between guilty and not guilty.”

However, removing the not proven verdict from Scots law as it stands will increase the likelihood of miscarriages of justice, an academic has warned.

David Lorimer, a PhD candidate at Aberdeen University said, “There is a zone of uncertainty around the standard of proof. Not only in terms of its definition but quantitatively.

“Where there is a certain amount of incriminating evidence and it is uncertain as to whether this is enough to put the net weight of evidence ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, ‘not proven’ will signify that uncertainty. The law says the accused must get the benefit of such doubt.”

As a party strong on law and justice, we expect to see calls for tougher crackdowns on crime from the Conservatives.

Along those lines, as some critics have called for harsher sentencing in criminal cases, the Conservatives plan to double the maximum sentence for assaults on police and other emergency workers, and introduce whole-life sentences, end the presumption against short sentences and end automatic early releases to crackdown on the most egregious offenders.

This has been an ongoing issue in parliament for some time, with the Scottish Conservatives backing calls to make life sentences stick back in 2017, in the wake of Paige Doherty’s murder.

The Conservatives would also revoke prisoners’ right to vote.

Credit: Douglas Ross

Create a “global Britain” now that the country has left the EU

This is definitely ambiguously worded to say the least. Any sort of hope for a global Britain relies heavily on it’s relationship with the EU, even if not part of the EU. Only time will tell concerning the Northern Ireland protocol which will be essential to good relations and a global Britain in a position to focus energy elsewhere. For the Conservatives, the EU is not a priority. It wants to focus on other parts of the world, not least the US and Indo-Pacific and domestic rebuilding post-pandemic.

However, a global Britain will need to reconcile itself with the EU to be successful.

This manifesto point is to both send a message that the Conservatives will not fight further for Scotland’s relationship with the EU (as realistically Scotland is just part of the ‘special’ union of the UK, with UK wide votes superseding Scotland’s) and that they consider this issue done and dusted, but also to signify that Britain has many more global prospects than the EU.

This policy will undoubtedly encompass new trade deals and relationships negotiated with institutions and countries decidedly out with the EU, most importantly the US.

Introduce a Right to Retrain Account for every Scottish adult, with £500 to be spent on training every year

Post-pandemic, the job market may look very different in a few years time relative to prior. Accompanied with ever-increasing technological advancements and innovative development, many individuals may find themselves without the skills required to compete and seek employment as the world continues to change.

This proposal from the Scottish Conservatives promises to address the gap in skills attainment and access by offering a £500 annual retraining allowance for individuals seeking to take on the new skills our modernising world demands.

However, some truly significant qualifications exceed £500 so individuals aren’t going to be able to completely u-turn in their career on just this payment alone. Notwithstanding this, it is a beneficial policy to allow individuals to incrementally alter their skills and despite the above, many individual Highers at night school are £345, with many vocation based skill training pricing under £500 also. If it applies to literally all courses or singular training sessions it is one to watch out for.

Individuals on low-income will still require more support than this for the level of retraining that is likely to be required to compete for jobs successfully in the future.

Party leader Douglas Ross said there would be job losses as Scotland emerged from the pandemic and he wanted to ensure that people had “all the tools available” to retrain.

“We hope the majority of those stay in work, but we’ve got to look at alternative schemes for those who sadly lose their jobs,” he told the BBC.

“I think this support to retrain, to get people back into employment, is the right way to direct our resources going forward.”

£600m to tackle the NHS backlog in 2021-22, and increase mental health funding to 10% of the frontline health budget

All political parties have recognised the need to step up and make both economic and social recovery at the heart of their manifestos, specifically with regards to addressing the backlog of NHS patients who desperately require treatment and surgery, and the mental health crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The Conservatives have promised £600 million just to tackle these backlongs, with a further increase to annual NHS funding by at least £2bn by 2025-26, based on current estimates.

All parties pretty much have similar policies in this area, with a focus observed uniformly across all manifestos concerning the need to better address and provide for mental health issues in society. The Conservatives have promised 10% of all frontline health spending will go on mental health issues.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “On mental health, I think this is one we can all accept, there has been a massive impact on individuals’ mental health over the last year.

The pandemic has seen us shut away in many cases from our loved ones, we’ve not been getting out and about so much, we’ve been working from home, so there’s no doubt people’s mental and physical health, in particular their mental health, has suffered during the pandemic.

“We’ll be putting in our manifesto an increase in the funding for mental health services, up to 10 per cent of the total health spend in Scotland, because we believe more has to be done and more support needs to be given to mental health services.

“There was already a problem before we came into this pandemic.

“I think this pandemic has exacerbated that problem. And therefore we need to have the support in place.”

Bring forward a Circular Economy Bill to help Scotland achieve net-zero emissions by 2045, and establish a £25m Cleaner Seas Fund to take harmful products including plastics out of the sea

Scottish party manifesto’s really do emphasise the environment, with all major political parties committed to net zero by 2045 (5 years ahead of the rest of the UK) and establishing cross-party initiatives to create a Green Scotland. Obviously the Scottish Greens themselves put the most emphasis on environmental policies, but generally speaking across the board with parties we perceive the acknowledgement of the universal need to decarbonise and save our planet.

The Circular Economy bill is a plan also supported by all other major political parties in Scotland, to fully changing the way our nation thinks about waste, recycling, and various other reusable factors.

“This (the Circular Economy Bill) will set new targets for reducing our raw material usage, especially those that are single use or difficult to recycle. Alongside this, we will invest in our recycling capacity and fund the creation of a Centre for Circular Economy Excellence to drive the rollout of best practice in business, public sector, the third sector and communities.

” We will establish a Circular Economy Awards Scheme to recognise innovation in reuse and waste reduction. We will ensure that public procurement is used to incentivise the delivery of our environmental targets and enhance our circular economy,” a spokesperson said.

To read the full Scottish Conservatives manifesto, click here.

Featured Image Credit: Douglas Ross Facebook

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