Ruth Davidson challenges UK Conservatives with immigration plea

Written by Tom Freeman on 30 May 2018 in News

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson challenges Theresa May over immigration pledge and NHS spending

Ruth Davidson - David Anderson/Holyrood

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has challenged the UK Government to scrap its failed target to bring net migration down to a five-figure level.

The pledge to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands” first appeared in David Cameron’s 2010 manifesto and has since been repeated by Theresa May, but the figure has been around the 250,000 mark for some time.

In a speech at Glasgow University, Davidson urged May to scrap the plan.

“Setting an immigration target reduced to tens of thousands is one thing when unemployment is running at 8 per cent,” she said.

“Refusing to review it when the country nears full employment and sectors are reporting skills shortages is quite another.

“Even if that target were to stay, I see no reason why overseas students should be included within the numbers counted.”

Davidson also challenged the rhetoric around the status of EU citizens after Brexit.

“We want EU citizens who live here to stay. I have an interest here: I speak as someone who is about to marry one. And to assure EU citizens and others of that wish, we need to do more,” she said.

In another challenge to the UK party leadership, Davidson also suggested the party should prioritise NHS spending over tax cuts.

“As we prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS later this summer, I very much support the proposal for substantial extra funding across the whole of the UK to put the NHS on a firm and solid footing for the long term.

“The obvious question is: where should this money come from? I have no doubt that this will be the source of major debate within our party and across parliament over the coming months. Indeed, it has already started.

“My view is this: the UK Government has acted to reduce the tax burden on working families. It has honoured its promise to do so. Raising the income tax threshold has reduced taxes for millions of UK workers and has taken thousands out of taxation altogether.

“But the UK government has a choice to make. And, if that choice is between extra spending on the NHS or introducing further tax breaks beyond those already promised, I choose the NHS.”

It is expected NHS England figures published on Thursday will reveal hospitals will have twice as big a deficit as expected, while health boards in Scotland have reported financial hardship amid pressures from a population that are living longer with more complex conditions.

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