Mr Ross, who is also a prominent football referee in Scotland, stands out among party leaders with his lack of a an ivory tower background. He is proud to have gone to an agricultural college instead and argues that people who learn trades will gain the skills Britain’s economy demands. The dad of one argues that they can often end up earning more than counterparts with degrees.
Mr Ross, who took the helm of the Scottish Tories in August, is an enthusiastic member of the Blue Collar Conservatism movement, whose online conference is this week being hosted on the Express website.
He said: “I belong to an exclusive club, which might seem like an odd thing for a Blue Collar Conservative to admit.
“But this is an exclusive club I’m proud to be part of – I’m a political party leader who didn’t go to university. Instead of university, I went to Auchincruive Agricultural College in Ayr, and I don’t regret it for a second.
“The opposite, in fact. It set me up to get on and get ahead in life and it was exactly what I needed.”
Mr Ross does not worry that he missed out on friendships as a result of skipping university.
He said: “I’m sure university would have given me a lot of experiences to remember – but college did too.
“I’m sure I would have met a lot of interesting characters – but trust me, I met plenty at college. I’m sure it would have helped me get ahead – but I’ve done OK so far.”
Douglas Ross is proud to have gone to an agricultural college
The 37-year-old wants to change attitudes and challenge the snobbery about alternatives to university.
He said: “We don’t focus enough on telling every single young person that university is a great idea for many people but it’s not for everyone, it’s not the be-all and end-all. We shouldn’t treat young people who want to go to college, do apprenticeships or go straight into training as second-class citizens. We need to stop leaving so many young people behind because they have a different, but equally valuable, set of skills.”
Mr Ross argues that often the “value of a great vocational qualification turns out to be far higher than a university degree”.
He said: “There are so many jobs where young people can earn an even better living by learning those practical skills. “The skills a college or apprenticeship place offers are more in-demand than the benefits that many university degrees provide.”
Mr Ross will face one of the greatest challenges of his life next year when he leads the party into the Scottish Parliament elections.
Nationalists would likely claim an outright victory for the SNP is a mandate for another independence referendum.
Scottish Tories leader is a referee
He said: “Too often, the only thing that people hear in Scotland is about the independence debate.
“But I assure you, while the SNP Government are off agitating for another referendum, the Scottish Conservatives are putting the real priorities of Scottish people first.”
Comment by David Davis
As we come out of the coronavirus crisis and begin to rebuild an economy that had come grinding to a halt, the Conservative Party will need to remember its roots.
We have always been, and we must always be, the party of small business, the party of the self-employed and the party of opportunity. It is these core principles that will get the economy back on track.
Small and medium-sized companies are the lifeblood of the British economy. They make up 99.9 percent of all businesses in the UK. They employ 60 percent of all workers and account for more than half of all turnover in our private sector.
The self-employed are also becoming an increasingly vital part of our economy, making up 15 percent of the workforce, contributing an enormous £270billion to the UK economy.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis
These are the contractors building new homes, the plumbers fixing our broken sinks, and the shopkeepers powering day-to-day life. It is these innovative small businesses and entrepreneurs that a Conservative government should support.
Rishi Sunak has been forced to cancel his November budget. But rumours are that the Chancellor is considering rises in National Insurance, Capital Gains Tax and a host of other damaging taxes on business.
This would be the worst possible approach.
National Insurance is effectively a tax on jobs. A rise would do nothing but curtail any hopes of a boost to employment.
The Bank of England predicts unemployment will nearly double to 7.5 percent once the furlough scheme is withdrawn. So taxing employment would be utterly disastrous.
What’s more, the 2019 Conservative Manifesto was crystal clear – “We promise not to raise rates of income tax, VAT or National Insurance”. Far from raising our taxes, the Chancellor should be cutting them to promote growth. That is what the economy needs more than ever.
He should be following the example of Ronald Reagan who cut the top rate of tax from 70 percent to 28 percent in the 1980s.
We know that cutting taxes not only promotes growth, investment and productivity – it also brings in more revenue.
The Government should also combine tax cuts with Roosevelt-style investment in many small-scale infrastructure projects across the UK.
Roosevelt’s ambitious programme achieved the electrification of rural America, built 78,000 bridges, 650,000 miles of roads and hundreds of airports. That is the scale we should be aiming for.
Of course this would cost money and add to our national debt.
But with global interest rates at historically low levels and the economy in desperate need of stimulation, there has never been a better time to invest in big capital projects. When the time comes for a full-scale Budget, the Chancellor must remember our Conservative principles.
He must put in place a bold strategy to get our economy firing on all cylinders.
David Davis is Former Brexit Secretary