Abandoning a plan to abolish the 45p top rate of income tax for the highest earners is “the right decision” by the Chancellor, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has said.
He told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that politicians “have to listen and respond and that is exactly what the Chancellor has done”.
Mr Ross said: “This morning we know that the Chancellor has confirmed a change to the budget that was presented 10 days ago.
“I think he’s made the right decision – the best parts of the Government’s growth plan going forward remain and the area that caused most concern has gone. Politicians have to listen and respond and that is exactly what the Chancellor has done.”
Taking questions, he told the PA news agency: “What we have seen is an immediate response from the markets as a result of the change announced by the Chancellor, but we have to continue to look at the positive aspects of the budget.
“For me, there’s a lot of positivity in there that can deliver for the people I represent in Moray, in the Highlands, across Scotland and across the UK.”
On benefits, he told members during the Q&A: “The Government also have to protect the most vulnerable, and I am certain that the Government led by Liz Truss will do that to ensure that people have opportunities to support themselves and their families, and we have seen that the Conservative Parliamentary Party which Liz leads, and in her role as Prime Minister, will make sure that those who need the most will get it when they need it most.”
During his speech, Mr Ross said his background was “as far away as possible from Eton and the City of London”.
He turned his fire on the SNP Scottish Government for being “obsessed with centralisation that has stripped funding from communities and local services”.
He said: “The result after 15 years of the SNP’s Scotland is that the place where you live has a huge impact on the quality of life you will have.”
On educational attainment, Mr Ross said: “The reality is, under the SNP, kids from the most deprived areas of Scotland are less likely to go to university than similar disadvantaged youngsters in England and Wales.
“For a First Minister and an SNP Government forever boasting about how ‘progressive’ they are, that is a shameful badge of failure.”
He said the Scottish Conservatives would set up a National College of Scotland “so that further education and training is available virtually wherever you live”.
He added that it would adopt a “rural first” approach, and said: “We will also ensure that every policy is rural-proofed so that the resources are in place for it to be rolled out in more sparsely populated areas.”
Setting up a Rural Development Bank “would provide dedicated funding for projects that will create jobs and prosperity in rural areas or support our agricultural sector”.
Mr Ross added: “So today we continue to show that on education, economic development, housing and many other areas the Scottish Conservatives are Scotland’s real alternative to this tired and failing SNP Government.”
His party “would work with the UK Government rather than manufacture grievance at every turn”.
SNP MSP Rona Mackay said Mr Ross had a “brass neck”, accusing him of “(lecturing) a room full of Tories about what Scotland needs when his party haven’t come close to winning an election here in almost 70 years”.
“There is one Government that is holding Scotland back – one that has tanked the UK economy, prompted an unprecedented intervention from the Bank of England and imposed a deeply damaging Brexit on Scotland against our will.
“Last week, Douglas Ross urged the SNP to pass on tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the poorest in our communities.
“Now he says ditching the plan is the right thing to do.
“The public simply can’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth, and it seems his own side are now losing confidence in him given the reports of plotting to oust him as Holyrood leader.”