By Bob Duncan
Ruth Davidson has marked the first anniversary of her time in office with a call to cut over £1 billion from Scotland’s budget, in a move which the SNP have labelled “spectacularly misjudged”.
Ms Davidson had previously called for a 1p cut to income tax in Scotland, but today called for even steeper tax cuts stating: “I want us to look further to see if 1p in the pound is all we can afford”.
In 2016 when the cut would come in, every 1p reduction in income tax in Scotland would cost £560 million. This means that if income tax was cut even further than her previous statements have called for, Scotland’s budget would be facing a hole of at least £1.12 billion.
She made the remarks in a speech to mark her first year in the job as Scottish Conservative leader, a job which she said involves taking on "19 years of decline and stagnation at the ballot box" for the Tories.
She said her party would offer a "clear choice to the people of Scotland and not just an echo of the left-wing consensus that has dominated the devolution years".
Her speech echoed traditional Tory values and Ms Davidson argued that independence will not provide the answers to the "real challenges" facing Scots. She highlighted Scotland's rising unemployment rate, the number of children living in poverty and the "stubbornly high" difference in health between rich and poor.
"These challenges will not be met by independence, by swapping one set of flags and emblems for a different set, exchanging one parliament for another," she said.
On taxes, she said: "Scottish Conservatives want to see people keep more of the money they earn and not have it eaten up by excessive government spending.
“We believe in prioritising the family budget over the government budget. That is why we are committed to reducing personal taxation when the power to do so comes to the Scottish Parliament in 2016 and I want us to look further to see if 1p in the pound is all we can afford."
Ruth Davidson has also previously stated that the Barnett Formula will be “reviewed” if there is a No vote in 2014, revealing the Tories’ willingness to bring in even more savage cuts to Scotland’s budget if the referendum does not return a Yes vote.
Her call for Scotland’s budget to be slashed comes on the same day as a poll by Oxfam showing that 57% of Scots are against lowering taxes for everyone as would be required under Scotland’s tax varying powers.
SNP MSP Sandra White said:
"Ruth Davidson is becoming renowned for her gaffes, but even by her standards she has made a spectacular misstep today. Before she has even come close to explaining how she would pay for her first tax cut, she has now stated that she wants to go even further.
"Ruth Davidson must now come clean with people in Scotland and explain exactly what part of the public sector is in the firing line for her £1 billion bombshell.
"People in Scotland want public services and the social contract that underpins society protected, not put on the chopping block in pursuit of Tory ideology.
"With today’s Oxfam poll revealing just how out of step with the Scottish public Ruth Davidson is, today’s gaffe has been a fitting way to mark her hapless first year as leader.
"Only a Yes vote in 2014 will protect Scotland from the dismal prospect of the anti-independence parties taking the axe to Scotland’s budget and rolling back the progress that has been made by the Scottish Parliament."