By a Newsnet reporter
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has been condemned after press releases of a speech she plans to deliver at a fringe event at the Tory Conference on Monday indicated she will claim that only one in eight Scots households generate wealth, with the implication that most Scots depend upon state handouts.
According to trails of her speech, Ms Davidson is expected to denounce Scotland as a “gang-master state” with a “corrosive sense of entitlement”.
SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson has called on Ms Davidson to apologise for insulting a large part of the Scottish population, and has characterised her speech as Ms Davidson’s “Mitt Romney moment”, in a reference to the gaffe-prone right wing presidential candidate in the USA.
Ms Davidson will use the bulk of her speech to make a lengthy attack on Scottish public service provision, based upon a misleading analysis of Scottish public expenditure and revenues.
Ms Davidson calls it “staggering” that public expenditure makes up a full 50% of Scottish Gross Domestic Product, and argues that Scotland is a “gangmaster” state characterised by “a corrosive sense of entitlement”.
In an advance release of her speech Ms Davidson says:
“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 gangmasters.”
“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.”
She concludes her speech by saying that it is vital that Scotland’s “left wing consensus is subjected to the most forensic scrutiny”.
In fact, more accurate assements of public expenditure as a percentage of GDP put the figure at 41.3% in Scotland, which is not significantly higher than the 40.9% recorded for the UK as a whole. Ms Davidson is only able to claim that public expenditure is so high in Scotland by ignoring the revenues from Scottish oil and gas, which the UK Treasury classes as coming from an “Ex Regio” source.
Ms Davidson’s assertion was debunked over 2 years ago by Labour’s John McTiernan, no supporter of Scottish independence, writing in the Daily Telegraph. The figures for the true share of Scottish public expenditure as a percentage of GDP are available in an independent report published by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre in 2010.
Despite this, Ms Davidson appears set on repeating the misleading analysis to delegates at the Conservative conference.
Ms Davidson’s comments come less than two weeks after Johann Lamont, the leader of Labour in Scotland, denounced Scotland as a “something for nothing” culture and said that Scotland’s universal benefits such as free prescriptions were unsustainable.
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“This is Ruth Davidson’s Mitt Romney moment. We are used to the Tories insulting Scotland but Ruth Davidson has now plumbed new depths for her party.
“At least Mitt Romney only insulted around half of Americans though, while Ruth Davidson believes almost 90 per cent of Scots do not ‘contribute’ to society.
“It is an outrageous slur, and Davidson should apologise to the people of Scotland.”
“Meanwhile, Ruth Davdson has faced fresh criticisms of her leadership.
Peter Duncan, a former Tory party chairman and shadow secretary of state, slammed Ms Davidson’s now infamous ‘line in the sand’ comments over the Scotland Bill and further devolved powers.
Speaking in in the Sunday Times, he said:
“The sands have got to shift… And for the Conservatives, they must not be seen as grudging partners in this drive for further devolved powers. When sands are shifting it is futile to draw lines in them.
“The light at the end of the tunnel of the Conservative Party relationship with Scotland could be the establishing of a new approach to devolution. Frankly the only other option is yet another collision with a high speed train.”
SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson welcomed Mr Duncan’s comments, saying: “Just when you thought the Tories in Scotland couldn’t sink any lower they’ve now got sand kicked in their face by the former Tory Chairman in Scotland.
“It is becoming clearer by the day that the Tories and other anti-independence parties have nothing to offer Scotland, and Ruth Davidson’s comments suggest they are running scared of the momentum which is building for a Yes vote to an independent Scotland.
“If the referendum in 2014 is a straight choice between an independent Scotland that protects the benefits of devolution like free university education and free personal care, or a Tory-Labour cuts alliance hell bent on dismantling these policies, the people will say Yes to independence.”