Scotland politics

Future tax cuts in Scotland possible, says Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson

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Media captionRuth Davidson guaranteed that all Scottish Conservative MSPs elected in May will oppose tax rises

Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson believes a tax cut in Scotland is possible when the nation can afford it.

The MSP told Tory members gathered in Edinburgh: "We can cut tax, but over the medium term."

Ms Davidson also said that her party would provide a "strong opposition" after May's election.

Opinion polls show the Scottish Conservatives could become the second biggest party at Holyrood.

The politician pledged that every Tory MSP who was elected in May would go in to bat against tax rises.

'More powers to school leaders'

Ms Davidson said: "We can cut tax in Scotland, but over the medium term and our manifesto will show how.

"But if we're going to cut tax rates in Scotland, I believe we as a nation need to earn it first.

"And the truth is - we haven't done that yet."

She reckoned that public services like the NHS and education system needed support and the time was not right now for a "short-term tax cut below that of the UK".

Ms Davidson said that she wanted to see;

  • a new NHS guarantee whereby spending rises by whatever is highest - inflation; 2% or by the extra funding coming from Westminster
  • a full review of every one of the 40 centrally-set targets for NHS services
  • school heads being able to control their budgets and recruitment
  • proper testing and an independent inspection regime for schools

The politician said: "Five years from now, I don't want to look back on another parliament of wasted opportunity.

"So, let's act - more power to school leaders and a properly funded health service."

Ahead of the one-day conference, Ms Davidson told the BBC's political editor Brian Taylor that her party would remain united despite splits over Europe.

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Media captionRuth Davidson says that current tensions over EU membership will not lead to future factions within the Conservative party

The MSP wants voters to back Britain's membership of the EU in June's referendum.

As she voiced support for Europe in a half-hour webcast, fellow Tory, Liam Fox, was telling a fringe meeting Britain should leave.

The former defence secretary went on to accuse the Remain side of running a "project fear" campaign.

Mr Fox also admitted there would be strain on the relationship between Scotland and England if the former voted to stay and the latter voted to leave.

Ms Davidson insisted her party was "grown up enough" to have "an honest disagreement" in public view.

She said it was right for Conservative politicians to have a "full-throated" debate but for the people of the whole UK to make the decision.

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Media captionDr Fox said EU membership would restrict the UK economically and socially

When asked if the party could stick together, Ms Davidson replied: "Without a doubt."

The politician added: "Let us not get hysterical, this is an honest disagreement and people are putting policy positions out there.

"There have always been disagreements in political parties and this is an issue where it it not new, or exciting and or indeed newsworthy that there are people on different sides of this argument.

"That is entirely why the PM has taken quite right the right decision to allow a free vote on this and to make sure that it goes to the country and not to a vote in parliament.

"So everyone's vote counts the same whether you are a cabinet minister or whether you turned 18 the day before the vote itself.

"We are a grown up party and we know what is important and that is making sure that the government of this country stays on track."

The conference also heard from Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister David Cameron.

He told delegates that only the Tories could challenge the SNP and prevent Scotland becoming a "one party state".

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