England would be better off without Scotland, Tory candidate said
Conservative vying to win back Bedford seat said taxpayers south of the border are ‘fleeced’ by Scots
The Tory candidate for one of the party’s target parliamentary seats has sought to distance himself from a column he wrote accusing Scotland of “fleecing” English taxpayers and claiming that Scotland remaining in the UK would be a “catastrophe” for England.
Ryan Henson was selected last year as the Conservative candidate for Bedford and Kempston, which Labour won from the previous Tory MP, Richard Fuller, in 2017 with a wafer-thin majority of 789 votes.
In a 2014 article for Conservative Home, Henson wrote that, except for its contribution to Britain’s armed forces, “Scotland’s single biggest offering to the union over the past 50 years has been to provide the Labour party with parliamentary lobby fodder.
“In exchange, the people of England have seen their prescriptions and their university fees go up, while in Scotland both have been abolished – using English taxes to pay for it.”
A year before the SNP’s huge gains in the 2015 general election, he wrote: “Like a marauding tribe from the Dark Ages, Scottish Labour MPs have travelled south every four years to pillage their hard-working, wealthier and more politically sound neighbours. Enough is enough.”
“Scotland faces economic ruin,” he added, “should it continue with its socialist policies after losing the power to fleece the Conservative-voting English taxpayers. It is we English who bankroll her free health prescriptions; fund the entirety of her children’s four-year-long university courses; and subsidise her bloated, private-enterprise-killing, left-leaning public sector.”
He also said that, after Scottish independence, the English economy would thrive and that the English should say “what everyone’s really thinking: Scotland, it’s time for you to go”.
Last night Henson said the article had been intended as satire. “This was intended as a light hearted take on the Scottish Referendum campaign, and was taken as such at the time. It does not reflect my views – I passionately believe in the importance of the Union especially at this time.”
The revelations about Henson come at a difficult time for the Conservatives in Scotland. Boris Johnson was jeered loudly when meeting Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in Edinburgh last week; while the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, voiced her opposition to a no-deal Brexit after her ally David Mundell was sacked by Johnson from the cabinet.
The SNP’s constitution spokesperson, Pete Wishart, said in a statement: “These comments are typical of the contempt for Scotland that is increasingly in the mainstream of the Tory party – right up to, and including, the prime minister, who himself has spread the subsidy myth.
“Indeed, a recent poll found that – far from being the party of the union – most Tory members would now be happy for Scotland to become independent if that meant delivering Brexit.
“The Tories under Boris Johnson are completely out of touch with Scotland. No wonder more and more people are concluding that independence is the only way forward.”
Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, Lesley Laird, said: “This is just yet another example of the dangerous nationalism taking hold within the Tory party under Boris Johnson.
“Labour’s message is clear, the real division in society is not the division between Scotland and England. The real division is between those who own the wealth and those who, through their hard work and endeavour, create the wealth.”
The Conservative party did not respond to requests for comment.