Moray MP Douglas Ross has pledged to deliver a jobs plan for Scotland within 30 days of taking over, if successful in being named new leader of the Scottish Conservatives.
The politician, who is expected to be confirmed as leader this week, claims the SNP government’s recovery plan from the pandemic has been “totally inadequate” and has failed to stand up for Scottish jobs.
However, SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown hit back at the leadership hopeful, whom he said should first act to call on his colleagues at Westminster to extend the furlough scheme, along with devolving “key financial powers” to Holyrood.
Mr Brown also said the decision to leave the EU in the middle of a global pandemic was putting jobs and the economy at risk by “piling one crisis on top of another”.
We want to end the SNP power grab that has sucked up control to Edinburgh.”
Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leadership hopeful
With hotels, pubs and retail businesses facing threat of closure due to the crisis, the Conservative politician has committed to delivering a plan for jobs within the first month of his leadership, setting out “fresh ideas” on the economic recovery.
The initial set of priorities would include new measures to boost skills, retraining and apprenticeships, a major new plan for infrastructure investment and concrete action to support town centres and high streets.
Mr Ross said: “We want to end the SNP power grab that has sucked up control to Edinburgh.
“We back new investment on infrastructure. And we will support a skills revolution so people out of work can get new jobs.
“Lives and livelihoods are on the line in this pandemic. My pledge as leader will be to protect both.
“The SNP government need to step up and do the same.”
The 37-year-old, who looks to have a clear run at the leadership bid, has garnered support from across the UK and Scottish parties, since announcing his intention to run on Friday.
Nominations for the position close on Wednesday, with Mr Ross expected to be confirmed as leader this week.
If he wins the party leadership, he has stated his intention to contest a seat at the Holyrood election, in May, in the Highlands and Islands constituency, while continuing as the MP for Moray.
Former party leader Ruth Davidson has agreed to lead First Minister’s Questions in the interim period before the elections.
The fast-moving situation follows the shock resignation of former party leader Jackson Carlaw, who quit the top job after just six months, amid mounting concerns over the state of the party and its ability to defend the union.
Mr Ross, who officially launched his campaign in Aberdeen on Saturday, has pledged to be a leader for “all of Scotland”, after claiming the Scottish Government has been very “central belt-centric”.
He said his jobs plan will set out ways to empower Scotland’s cities, regions and communities and take power back from centralised control in Edinburgh.
He added: “The UK Government has done its bit – its furlough scheme has protected millions of jobs and kept tens of thousands of businesses alive.
“But the SNP government’s response has been totally inadequate.”
However, Keith Brown, SNP Depute Leader, said: “While Douglas Ross boasts about his party’s appalling record in government, millions of people are being left without support and levels of poverty in the UK are soaring.
“The reality is that too many people have been left behind by this Tory government.
“And with just months left before the UK crashes out of the EU in the middle of a global pandemic, the Tories are putting jobs and the economy at risk by piling one crisis on top of another.
“If Douglas Ross wants to talk about saving jobs and livelihoods, he should call on his colleagues at Westminster to extend the furlough scheme, and devolve key financial powers to Holyrood so that we can secure a strong recovery for Scotland.”