The Tories have let down rural Scotland

Following last year’s General Election, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson promised to “champion the Scottish national interest” at Westminster. But the reality has been very different.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell and Davidson have failed to deliver on promise after promise to Scotland. In Westminster, as in Holyrood, the Tories have shown that they will hold the party line whatever the cost to Scotland.

Here are just some of the ways the Tories have let down rural Scotland.

Selling out our fishing industry

When the Tories took the UK into the European Community, our fishing industry was treated as ‘expendable’. Now they’re doing the same as they negotiate Brexit.

Despite promises from the Scottish Tory leader that the UK would leave the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in March 2019, Tory Ministers have now made a deal with the EU to stay in the CFP for a transitional period.

We will continue in all circumstances to demand the scrapping or fundamental reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and support Scottish control of Scottish fisheries.

Failing rural communities on mobile internet coverage.

Mobile connectivity is reserved to Westminster. A new report has found that just 17 per cent of Scotland’s landmass has 4G coverage, compared to 60 per cent across the UK.

Many countries, like Germany, have required companies to prioritise rural areas through licensing but the Tory government has refused SNP demands to take this approach here.

While mobile licensing remains reserved, the Scottish Government is taking action. A new £25 million programme has been established to tackle 4G ‘not-spots’ in Scotland.

Slow progress on broadband – with the Scottish government picking up the slack

Broadband is reserved to Westminster but Scotland wouldn’t have made significant progress without the Scottish Government’s efforts.

Without the SNP government’s investment in broadband, fibre coverage would have covered just 66 per cent of Scottish premises – with just 21 per cent coverage in the Highlands and
no coverage at all on Na H-Eileanan an Iar, Orkney or Shetland.

In reality, by the end of 2017, 95 per cent of premises in Scotland had access to fibre broadband. We will now go further. Over the next four years we will invest £600 million in delivering superfast broadband to 100 per cent of properties by 2021.

Putting jobs in the food sector at risk in Brexit talks

Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit but if the UK is to leave Europe, we want the best deal for Scotland. So far it looks like the UK government will get a bad deal, or no deal at all. That would put thousands of jobs at risk across Scotland, particularly in our food and drink sector.

Norway’s deal with the EU points the way forward. Norway is not a member of the EU but, in almost all areas, Norwegian businesses trade across the EU without extra charges or barriers. The UK government should take this approach and keep the UK in the Single Market.

No action to support the South of Scotland economy

While the Scottish Government is investing £10 million to set up a new agency to support businesses and jobs in the South of Scotland – the UK government has promised nothing more than talks on a region deal.

Sitting on their hands as RBS close the last bank in town

RBS plans to close 62 branches across Scotland, leaving 13 Scottish towns with no local bank at all. While taxpayers still own the majority of shares in RBS, the Prime Minister has refused to intervene.

Slow progress on delivery charges

People living in rural Scotland, particularly in the Highlands and Islands, face unfair additional delivery charges.

For too long the UK government has dragged its feet on the issue. Now, thanks to the campaigning of Richard Lochhead MSP and Drew Hendry MP, the UK government has pledged a review of rip-off delivery charges.

Failure to stand up for Scotland’s farming and fishing powers

Some EU powers, like support for farmers or control of our seas, fall within areas that are the responsibility of Holyrood.

The UK Withdrawal Bill makes a grab for these powers, handing them to Westminster and preventing Holyrood passing laws in these areas – and would even allow UK Ministers to make changes in devolved areas without consulting Holyrood.

The Scottish Secretary promised that amendments would be debated in the House of Commons so that the Bill respected devolution. This promise has been broken but that didn’t stop all 13 Scottish Tory MPs voting for the Bill.

Cutting the money available for public services

Whether we live in Wick or Wigtown, we all rely on public services every day. Yet this year, the Tory government at Westminster chose to continue cuts to funding for public services in Scotland.

By making Income Tax fairer, the SNP Scottish budget will reverse these cuts and invest in our schools and local health services. And we will continue to reject Scottish Tory proposals for tax cuts for the rich, which would require a cut to public services of half a billion.