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by Louise Wilson
02 October 2023
Liz Truss mini-budget ‘fiscally and completely irresponsible’ says former Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw

Credit: Alamy

Liz Truss mini-budget ‘fiscally and completely irresponsible’ says former Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw

The damage done to the Conservative Party by the election of Liz Truss as leader was “completely self-inflicted and completely unnecessary”, former Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw has said.

In an exclusive interview with Holyrood magazine, he said many in the party had been “captured by the most ridiculously bizarre and damaging prospectus”.

And while he had some sympathy with Truss’s urge to boost economic growth, he said her actions in the post-Covid environment were “fiscally and completely irresponsible”.

Truss was elected leader of the Conservative Party following a contest last summer, but her premiership lasted just 49 days.

During that time, she and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced a mini-budget which proposed cutting various taxes, including the top rate of income tax and corporation tax.

But after turmoil from the financial markets and backlash from her own party, many of the announcements were reversed and Truss ultimately resigned.

Rishi Sunak was elected to the position days later.

Carlaw said: “I found the whole Liz Truss experiment bizarre. To be really honest with you, I thought maybe in my early 60s I was now out of touch with where things were and I just wasn't getting it, and everybody else had got it. As it turned out, no, I had got it perfectly well. It was other people, who I normally thought were fairly sensible, who seemed to have for whatever reason got completely captured by the most ridiculously bizarre and damaging prospectus.

“We very quickly resolved the issue, but the legacy of it has been very difficult for us, because people still, I think, wonder what on earth was all that about. And it was completely self-inflicted and completely unnecessary.

“That’s not to say that there wasn't an argument somewhere in what Liz Truss was saying about the country, about needing to embrace a strategy for growth that was much more obvious, directional  and likely to deliver. Governments have been saying that for a long time, we have been slow to actually achieve it.

“But the way in which they went about it, in the immediate post-Covid environment where we had had to borrow so much to ensure that the country got through that pandemic, it just looked so fiscally and completely irresponsible. It clearly was deeply damaging.”

In a wide-ranging interview, the former Scottish Tory leader also reflected on the position of the SNP government.

He said former first minister Nicola Sturgeon has become “more isolated” the longer she was in office.

And he suggested First Minister Humza Yousaf has “put himself in a bit of a straitjacket” by refusing to acknowledge any mistakes made by his predecessors.

He said: “I think Humza [Yousaf] stepped right into it. I don't see him about the place or engaging. I thought he might do more of that and I thought he might have drawn a line under and been prepared to say, ‘I'm a new administration with a new vision.’

“I think he's put himself in a bit of a straitjacket by almost immediately looking as if he wants to defend everything that's happened over the last 16, 17 years, when I think a more honest approach would be to say, ‘well, we did things that were right at the time, but actually, the times have changed and what we need to do now is different.’”

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