The Scottish Conservatives will have a “relentless focus on rebuilding” the country after coronavirus, leader Douglas Ross will pledge, as he announces plans for a new scheme that aims to deliver a “skills revolution”.
The Tory MP wants to see a £500 “Retrain to Rebuild” grant be made available to help people learn new skills and build their careers.
The Conservatives say the scheme could help as many as 100,000 Scots in its first two years, when it could help those who are currently unemployed, anyone facing redundancy, and workers earning less than £30,000.
After that they believe the scheme could be made open to everyone from 2023 onwards.
Ross will speak out about the proposals as he delivers his speech to the Scottish Conservative Party conference.
And he will seek to contrast his plans with those of Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, which is using May’s Holyrood election to push for a second Scottish independence referendum.
Ross will say that the “SNP close doors and limit opportunity, telling people that they have to wait for independence to achieve and get ahead”.
He will add: “While their top priority will always be Indyref2, my party will have a relentless focus on rebuilding Scotland now.
“By stopping an SNP majority, we can get the Scottish Parliament 100% focused on job-protection proposals like Retrain to Rebuild.”
As the vaccination programme looks to help the UK move out of the health crisis caused by coronavirus, he will insist that “bold and ambitious” plans are needed to build recovery.
“Let’s be the party that delivers opportunity and gives people the tools they need to succeed and achieve their ambitions,” Mr Ross will say.
“Let’s deliver a skills revolution.”
He believes that is necessary as the economic crisis arising from the pandemic will “loom over us for years to come”.
The Scottish Conservative leader will claim: “The UK furlough scheme has protected around a million Scottish jobs, but to rebuild Scotland, we need to start focusing on the jobs of the future.
“Faced by a tsunami of unemployment we need an emergency response that matches the scale of the problem.
“Our Retrain to Rebuild accounts would give people in work the support to learn new skills and progress.
“It would give people struggling for work the chance to rapidly retrain and get a new job or kickstart a new career.
“We would target support at the 100,000 Scots who need it most to start with, and expand this plan to a universal skills offer by 2023.
“The benefits would flow to all of us by driving up productivity, attracting more investment, fostering new businesses and ultimately, increasing funding to local services.”
SNP MSP George Adam said: “The Tories’ hypocrisy truly knows no bounds.
“While the SNP has led the way in tackling inequality, helping those out of work or on low incomes with a new social security system based on dignity and respect, our progress is being severely undermined by Tory cuts.”
He added: “The best way to secure a Covid recovery which is fair for everyone is by putting Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.”