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Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross reveals plan to make Highland capital as attractive a business destination as Glasgow


By Scott Maclennan

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Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross is set to announce an ambitious jobs and economic recovery plan from Inverness later today.

The Power Up Scotland jobs plan involves a major investment in transport and tourism and the Highlands could be one of the main beneficiaries with significant investment directed beyond the central belt and towards rural areas.

It makes good on Mr Ross’s promise of a jobs plan within his first month as leader and focus on local investment and development and comes as the Scottish Government prepares its own Programme for Government.

The detailed plan wants to create a tourism infrastructure fund to help protect roads in rural Scotland that suffer from the high levels of tourists enjoying routes like the NC500.

It also seeks to make transport easier with an integrated contactless smart travel card for all domestic modes of transport.

They include:

  • Faster rail to better connect Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness, uniting major cities across all of Scotland.
  • A Tourism Infrastructure Fund to improve travel for tourists and protect local roads in rural Scotland outside the central belt.
  • Sector-specific Job Security Councils to help laid-off workers transition and find skilled work, based on Sweden’s hugely successful retraining programmes.
  • A Town Centre Rescue Plan to help small local shops adapt and free up planning restrictions.
  • A ‘Scotland First’ procurement strategy to have the government spend more money locally.
  • A fully integrated transport system with a Scottish Smart Travel Card for contactless travel across all domestic modes of transport.
  • A Scottish education guarantee to age 18 and expanded adult learning programmes.
  • Community Right to Buy schemes for local pubs and other employers in fragile areas.
  • Scottish Enterprise reformed on regional lines and new Rural Growth deals to spread high-quality jobs and business growth across the country.
  • A yellow/red card system for businesses who make late payments and bid for public work.
  • A new research and development target with better incentives for innovation.
  • A hardship fund for businesses facing localised lockdowns.

Mr Ross said: “We need to take power back from the government in Edinburgh and put power in the hands of people and communities across Scotland. We can do that by making it just as easy and attractive for a business to set up in Inverness as in Glasgow.

“In the biggest economic downturn of our lifetime, the UK Government stepped up and protected nearly a million Scottish jobs. Now the Scottish Government must match that ambition.

“My proposals won’t just protect jobs over the next few months, they will power up the Scottish economy and start creating the jobs of tomorrow, today.

“This detailed blueprint for the next phase of recovery will help workers retrain and find new skilled work, give town centres the tools they need to rebuild, and take every part of Scotland forward together.

“I will work with the Scottish Government on these proposals wherever possible but there is a clear contrast between what we see as Scotland’s priorities.

“I don’t believe Scottish people want a government that drags us back to the division of the past and wastes time on constitutional wrangling.

“I believe people want both of Scotland’s governments to co-operate, not compete. They want us to hand power back to communities, not hoard it in Edinburgh. They want long-term strategies that build for the future, not sticking plaster proposals that prove to be second-rate.

“Most of all, I believe Scottish people want action on jobs, now. They don’t want delays and excuses.”

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