Davidson unveils "real devolution" plans for Scotland

Ruth Davidson has pledged to reverse Scotland's economic slump by handing sweeping new powers from Holyrood down to town halls leaders in a sea-change in Scotland's devolution set-up.
Ruth Davidson said the Tories are ready to be Scotland's party of GovernmentRuth Davidson said the Tories are ready to be Scotland's party of Government
Ruth Davidson said the Tories are ready to be Scotland's party of Government

The Tory leader said her party is ready to form the Government of Scotland despite never having tasted power under devolution in a rousing speech to the party's Scottish conference in Glasgow yesterday.

Opposition to a second independence referendum was at the heart of Ms Davidson's half-hour speech, but she also set out plans for "real devolution" in Scotland which would see council leaders "empowered" to take on the English Northern powerhouse metropolitan giants like Manchester and Birmingham.

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Ms Davidson told delegates yesterday that Scotland has become a "divided country" as the SNP pursues a second referendum after Brexit and ministers have "simply lost all grip on the things that really matter."

"Scotland's deserves better than this," Ms Davidson told delegates in Glasgow yesterday.

"The responsibility falls to us. We can be that better, government, we must be that better government, we will be that better government."

The Tories have been buoyant since beating Labour into second place in the Holyrood election last year to become the main opposition at Holyrood. They are now confident of a repeat in this May's local council elections.

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The party leader indicated yesterday she wants to see town hall leaders spearhead a revival in Scotland's economic fortunes with new powers to boost growth at grass roots level.

The real challenge to local government in Scotland, Ms Davidson said, is coming from "thriving metropolitan areas" in Manchester, in Birmingham, in Liverpool.

"What Scotland needs isn’t more local powers flowing to our First Minister," the Tory leader added.

"We need more powerful local leaders in our great cities to take on the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine. Scotland’s growth levels are lagging behind the UK and have done so for the last 3 years.

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"More centralisation isn’t the answer to this – in fact, centralisation is the cause of this. So in our manifesto for the Local Government elections we will be setting out plans to empower councils and give them a renewed purpose.

"With a greater role to deliver economic growth – with incentives so local areas keep the rewards from that growth. And, crucially, given more control over the way money is raised and spent.

"Real devolution - not just to Holyrood, but to the communities and cities that matter."