From mental health to Europe, the Tories are still the nasty party

READ: Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP on why from mental health to Europe, we should not be fooled, the Tories are still the nasty party

By Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP Mar 09, 2017 3

Ruth Davidson might like to think that everyone has forgotten her promises but at their heart the Scottish Conservative party are still the same callous, nasty party that they have always been, says Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

Last weekend saw the Scottish Conservative party host their spring conference and for once even the Prime Minister paid Glasgow a visit.

Of course, she didn’t announce this to the public in advance because for all Ruth Davidson’s efforts the popularity of the Conservative party in Scotland only goes so far. But the last three years have at least shown that the Conservatives are not so dead in Scotland as was once commonly assumed.

There have been some interesting gestures from the Scottish Conservatives lately: the launch of a mental health plan and some fooling around with electric cars; the type of gestures that indicate a group still plenty concerned with sloughing off their “Nasty Party” image.

But don’t be fooled by Ruth Davidson’s cow-cuddling, tank straddling Tory party. This is still the same nasty and callous party as ever.

You cannot trust the Tories on mental health. They promised to spend £1.4 billion modernising children’s mental health services and then spent the money propping up other services.

You cannot trust the Tories on the environment. They have scrapped the zero carbon homes plan, closed the department of climate change and voted to allow fracking here in Scotland.

And crucially, you cannot trust the Tories on Europe.

I’m sure that like me, you will remember Ruth Davidson on the Wembley Arena stage, announcing to the world how important it was that we remained in the European Union; how crucial our membership of the single market was to jobs and prosperity.

What a difference a year makes. 

Here in Holyrood we often mock the SNP for seeing the world solely through the prism of independence. But it is not only the SNP that have tunnel vision on the constitution. 

The Conservatives have it too – on Brexit. And sure enough, Ruth Davidson is cheerleading for her party’s hard Brexit agenda. It’s a shocking betrayal of the principles she spoke out for on that Wembley stage.

This week I was incredibly proud to see my colleagues in the House of Lords this week challenging the Government over the rights of EU citizens to stay. We have won the first compromise on the Article 50 bill and instructed the government to think again.

Personally I think that it’s ridiculous that this malicious Government still have not given assurances to EU citizens – citizens who work in our public services, pay their taxes and contribute enormously to our culture – that they will be able to stay in their homes. And yet Ruth Davidson has not said a word.

She claims to have the ear of Government and Scotland’s interests at heart but six months into this Brexit Conservative government, Ruth Davidson cannot show a single compromise that she has extracted from Theresa May and her hard Brexiteers. 

She has failed to guarantee for our farmers that they won’t lose a penny as EU subsidies are withdrawn. She has failed to extract a promise that Theresa May will not use this as an opportunity to renege on devolution. And she has failed to come out and support Scotland remaining in the single market. This is the same Conservative party as ever and they cannot be trusted. 

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer scrabbles to plug a £200 billion Brexit black hole opening in our public finances, Nicola Sturgeon’s nationalists stir the pot for a second independence referendum and Her Majesty’s Compliant Opposition concentrate on refighting the internal battles of 1983, it is easy to feel disheartened.

But there is still a way out. As the real impact of Brexit begins to be felt; as talented and hardworking EU citizens leave their homes in the UK, business investment falls and the economy begins to falter, it would be right and democratic to give the British people the final say over Theresa May and Ruth Davidson’s Brexit deal. 

And with two years of negotiations to go, there is still time for Ruth to change her stripes. It’s happened before.

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