New Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross is to host a series of roundtable meetings in a bid to discover what people’s priorities are.
The Moray MP, who succeeded Jackson Carlaw as head of the Scottish Tories earlier this month, said he will be “getting out into the country” and “listening to people up and down Scotland to find out what’s important to them”.
He said he believes there is a “great opportunity” for Scotland to “rebuild better”, despite the challenges posed by coronavirus.
The first of his Roundtable Scotland events will focus on how to tackle the country’s drugs problem.
It will involve the campaign group Favor Scotland, whose chief executive Annemarie Ward is a member of the SNP.
Ross said: “When I was elected leader I said I wanted to help unite Scotland so we can move forward together.
“That process can only begin by talking to each other, not shouting at each other.
“So as I begin my leadership, I want to start by getting out into the country and by listening to people up and down Scotland to find out what’s important to them and what priorities they put first.
“I don’t want just to preach to the converted, I want to talk to people who don’t support my party too.
“Even if we won’t agree on everything, we can surely all find a way to disagree better – and help our country move forward as a result.”
He also plans a meeting focused on education, with invites going to the main teaching unions – the EIS, the NASUWT and the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association.
Ross also plans to speak to business groups about the imminent economic challenges facing Scotland, ahead of the publication of a jobs plan in the coming days.
He added: “I believe this moment is a great opportunity for Scotland. People don’t want to go back to the old divisions, instead it’s time to find out what we have in common and so rebuild better after coronavirus.
“I want to seize that opportunity and I’d love to hear from anybody who wants to be part of it.”
Ward said: “I’ve openly said in the past that I’m a member of the SNP and I have serious issues with numerous aspects of Scottish Conservative policy.
“On recovery and drug treatment we have clear disagreements, but there are also areas where we can work together.
“I’ve said that the record-high drug death rates are Scotland’s shame. Ending that appalling record will take political will from every party.
“If Douglas wants to sit down and listen to us, we’re happy to work with him, just as we would be happy to work with Nicola Sturgeon if it means we help people get better and save lives.”
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