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Tory conference: Lord Forsyth critical of Ruth Davidson's 12% comment

image captionRuth Davidson's remarks drew criticism from Lord Forsyth

Former Tory minister Lord Forsyth has criticised his party's Scottish leader over her claims only 12% of households contribute to Scotland's wealth.

The statement by Ruth Davidson has been dubbed her "Mitt Romney moment".

That is a reference to the US presidential candidate's comment that 47% of Americans pay no income tax and are dependent on the state.

Lord Forsyth, speaking on the BBC's Daily Politics show, said it was an "unfortunate" way to present her view.

He said Ms Davidson's suggestion that those on the public sector payroll were dependent on the state could have been "phrased a bit better".

However, the peer insisted the MSP was right that there was a high dependency on public money in Scotland.

At a fringe meeting during the Tory conference in Birmingham, Ms Davidson said that public sector expenditure made up half of Scotland's GDP.

She said she believed Scotland should expand its private sector to build prosperity and increase opportunity.

Ms Davidson told delegates that removing the "restraint of government diktat" was the best way to lift people out of dependency.

She added: "So little moves in Scotland without government approval and anyone who dares challenge the status quo is deemed an enemy of the state.

"Maybe it's because we stand up against the political establishment that some Scottish commentators have been indecently keen to write us off.

"But the rotten system of patronage which denies so many people real choices in their lives has created a corrosive sense of entitlement which suits its political gang-masters.

"It is staggering that public sector expenditure makes up a full 50% of Scotland's GDP and only 12% of households are net contributors, where the taxes they pay outweigh the benefits they receive through public spending.

"Only 12% are responsible for generating Scotland's wealth. I wonder how many of them work on public sector contracts. It's not just staggering, it's frightening."

Reacting to the fringe meeting comments, Lord Forsyth said: "I think it could probably have been phrased a bit better. She [Ms Davidson] is absolutely right that there is high dependency on public money in Scotland."

The former Stirling MP added that the best way forward was to "encourage more small businesses and more small enterprise" and not to accuse people on the public sector pay roll of being dependent on the state.

He said: "We are talking here about doctors and nurses and so on, they spend their money, they pay VAT. So, I think it is an unfortunate way of presenting it."

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