Purvis slams Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson over disability benefit cuts

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson  had a really bad interview on Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland today. She struggled on her plans to re-introduce prescription charges, to abolish free university tuition (which was secured by the Scottish Liberal Democrats in coalition with Labour back in 2001) and over free schools. She didn’t get grilled enough for our liking on her plans to do all that while cutting taxes for the richest, but you can’t have everything.

At around 2 hours 18 minutes in, the subject turned to cuts to disability benefits. Ruth says she opposed them before Iain Duncan Smith resigned although there is no record of her having done so. In fact, she praised George Osborne’s budget the day it came out. When pressed on exactly how she had expressed her opposition, she laughed. It was a nervous. hollow laugh, but, just as when Willie Rennie pursued this same point with her during the tv debate on Tuesday, it was clear that she was struggling to answer.

Jeremy Purvis, the Scottish Lib Dems’ campaign chair, said of her interview:

When she was asked whether she stood against disability cuts which would have hammered vulnerable people, Ruth Davidson laughed. There is nothing remotely funny about taking thousands of pounds away from hundreds of thousands of people living with disabilities.

It is now crystal clear that Ruth Davidson did nothing to stop the cuts to disability benefits before the budget, did not speak to the Prime Minister or the Chancellor after the budget and said absolutely nothing about the cuts until Iain Duncan Smith resigned. Her claims to oppose the cuts after supporting the budget are nothing more than a cynical face saving exercise.

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  • During the coalition years Clegg and Alexander – in public anyway – stood shoulder to shoulder with Osborne and IDS. In that time many thousands of sick people saw their benefits stopped and others had to undergo many months of stress going through the appeals procedure. “Crocodile tears” now just won’t wash with the voters. Also complaining that the Tories want to end free university tuition is really the pot calling the kettle black. Disability benefits and tuition fees – even in Scotland – are the two areas you really need to avoid.

  • Jane Ann Liston 31st Mar '16 - 9:10pm

    What I find inconsistent is how Ruth Davidson criticises us (and Labour) for our tax proposals, because she says they will hurt low earners, i.e. those earning £19K, but on the other hand considers that graduates earning just a thousand more, i.e. £20K, makes them well able to afford a graduate ‘contribution;, therefore not a ‘low earner’. What a difference that thousand makes!

  • @malc – they may well have done, but others – Tim Farron amongst them – publicly opposed both the benefits cut and the tuition fees rise with a majority of party members agreeing. Indeed, in Scotland, Ming Campbell and Charles Kennedy also voted against tuition fees. And while fees were prevented by the Labour / Lib Dem coalition in Scotland, they were only fully abolished by the SNP because they got Lib Dem support in the 2007 parliament for doing so (Labour and the Tories both voted against.)

    The electorate have been peddled half-truths, smears, misinformation and outright lies by the Labour Party in particular, but also the SNP and other organisations sympathetic to both (the NUS, the Daily Record and the National to name but three.) Someone needs to correct these – and if journalists are too lazy to do so, then it’s up to Lib Dem activists to get the message out.

  • Peter Watson 1st Apr '16 - 1:16pm

    @Keith Legg
    So exactly what is Lib Dem policy on tuition fees?

  • David Evans 1st Apr '16 - 2:42pm

    Keith, your suggestion is very laudable, but there are over 18 million households in the UK. Remember the million door challenge – that took three months, in the run up to a general election with lots of professional support. Even if we could keep that up, we would just about manage every home once by the time of the next general election. The poor infantry can’t do it on their own. It needs new ideas from the top.

    It was from the top where the damage was done between 2010 and 2015, and the public simply don’t trust us as a party (as opposed to a few MPs who are still trusted locally) and until the party hierarchy gets that they have to change things, we will just be swimming against the tide.

    The perpetual state of denial over the Clegg years has not really changed

  • Keith Legg – Like Peter Watson I would like to know what is the current policy on tuition fees? It’s the main thing people remember of the Lib Dems time in office and the broken pledges are likely to dog the party for many more years yet. Saying they helped keep Scotland tuition fee free, while the Lib Dem leadership supported increasing fees in England and Wales, doesn’t really wash with anyone.

  • David Howell 2nd Apr '16 - 11:55am

    Keith Legg:
    Do you really think that accusing other parties in Scotland of “smears, half-truths and lies” is a good idea; given the track record that your party has in Scotland and in particular Orkney & Shetland?

  • Peter Watson 2nd Apr '16 - 2:33pm

    I think the issue of tuition fees reflects a wider problem for Lib Dems that is not particularly explained or excused by devolution of policy to Scotland or Wales (or even the North West of England).
    Having performed a U-turn and then spent 5 years justifying it by explaining that increasing tuition fees led to more students and improved social mobility, the party now criticises the Tories for wanting to offer Scottish students the same ‘opportunity’. Policy on fracking was reversed in Scotland and then in England, and policy on drugs seems to be reversing as well. Having used Laffer curves to explain why reducing the top rate of income tax to 45% was the right thing to do, the Scottish Lib Dems now think 46% is better (reversing a previous reversal of wanting a penny on tax for education) and criticise Tories for proposing tax cuts for the wealthiest.
    It is hard to know what the Lib Dems stand for, what the party’s default position might be on any policy, whether that will be consistent in different parts of the UK, whether it will be consistent with positions in 2010 or 2015 or 2020, … It makes me so sad to say this, but from the outside the party looks directionless, a ship (the Titaninc?) with no rudder.

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