The Scottish Conservatives would re-invest in train stations cut-off from the Beeching report, Douglas Ross has said.
Closing the party conference from a pandemic-closed Perth Concert Hall, the newly elected leader addressed members online outlining policy plans ahead of May’s Holyrood election.
Mr Ross had previously announced “game changing” funding drives which would boost rural economies in the North East, which was covered in his speech.
He told delegates it would be “easy” for the Tories to just be the party of “No” in opposing a second Scottish referendum on independence, but would rather hold the SNP accountable for their 13 years in government.
Mr Ross said if elected, the “Beeching” railway closures — introduced by the Harold Macmillan Conservative government six decades ago — would be re-evaluated.
He said: “I have already set out my ambition to deliver major national infrastructure projects like a six lane M8 and faster rail connections to Inverness and Aberdeen.
“But we also need to think locally about the infrastructure our towns and villages need.
“Fair funding for our councils will improve our local roads, yet many of our communities do not have their own train station.
“The Beeching cuts of the 1960s saw many iconic Scottish railways and stations closed, like the Formartine and Buchan line.
“Now fifty years later, we need to assess the long-term damage that decision has done to the communities affected and whether the economic case has changed.
“The reopening of the Borders Railway has shown that local rail can again be a success.
“So we would review the Beeching lines, with the intention of reopening connections and stations that will support local growth.”
“Why can’t they give it a rest?”
In an interview with The Courier on Friday, Mr Ross refused to rule out working with Labour to keep the SNP out of Bute House in May.
He said independence was “taking up all the airtime” in Scottish debate.
He added: “While the nationalist focus is on separation, our focus is on Scotland.
“It would be easy for us to play the part in the SNP’s campaign for independence.
“To be the ‘no campaign’, as they seek to make next year’s election a spring referendum on whether there should be an autumn poll on Indy Ref 2.
“To join them in dividing Scotland, just like they did six years ago, splitting colleagues, friendships and families all over again
“But that is the fight that they want to have.
“They want another bitter and angry fight about the constitution.
“They do not want to debate their 13 long years in government or how little they have to show for their time in office.
“Be in no doubt that the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party I lead will always stand up for Scots who do not want to go through that division and uncertainty again.
“But we will not fight against a second referendum solely because we oppose separation,
“But also because we are sick and tired of the same arguments taking all of the airtime in Scottish politics.
This has been going on since 2007, why can’t they just give it a rest?”
“Denial of reality”
Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP said: “This was an astonishing exercise in the denial of reality. In the fantasy world of the Scottish Tories, the past decade of calamitous Westminster austerity apparently did not happen.
“Douglas Ross also failed to recognise the unfolding disaster that is Brexit. His party are wholly responsible for dragging Scotland out of the EU – against our democratically expressed wishes – in the midst of unprecedented health and economic crises.
“That is both deeply irresponsible and negligent and will cause incalculable devastation to businesses, jobs and communities the length and breadth of Scotland.
“Ross and his deluded band continue to profess – against all available evidence – that Westminster has the best interests of Scotland at heart while the people of this country recognised a long time ago that Tory Prime Minister’s like Boris Johnson just can’t be trusted.
“Douglas Ross knows the union has failed Scotland and that’s why independence is becoming the settled will of the Scottish people.
“While voters across Scotland continue to place their trust in the SNP to deliver in their interests, the Tories continue to behave like Donald Trump – but they cannot stand in the way of democracy and the right of the Scottish people to choose our own future.”