RUTH Davidson has unveiled a new economic think-tank tasked with producing fresh ideas to help the Scottish Conservatives become a “strong, capable, credible alternative government for Scotland” in time for the 2021 Holyrood elections.

The creation of the Scottish Future Growth Council fulfils a commitment given in the Scottish Tory’s election manifesto.

The party leader explained how it would be made up of some of Scotland’s pre-eminent figures in commerce, industry and academia.

These include: Sir Iain Macmillan, the former Director of the Confederation of British Industry in Scotland; Professor Ronald MacDonald, Research Professor of Macroeconomics and International Finance in the Adam Smith Business School at Glasgow University; Alice Enders head of research at Enders Analysis, which advises the media and telecoms sectors and Belinda Roberts, founder of WeDO Scotland, the country’s most exclusive leadership organisation for transformational business owners.

The advisory group will be chaired by Lord Dunlop, the former Scotland Office Minister, who, during his time in government, helped pioneer the UK Government’s City Deal strategy across Scotland.

It will work independently of the Scottish Conservatives and will focus specifically on devolved policy-making and ways in which Scottish Government policy can boost the nation’s performance.

“This is us making sure we have got some of the finest minds across Scotland, whether they are entrepreneurs, economists and CEOs, coming together,” declared Ms Davidson.

Asked if they were all Tories, she replied: “I haven’t got a clue because we have not asked them and we don’t care. We are not interested in what their political allegiance is; we’re interested in harnessing the finest minds that Scotland has to offer to help us build the sort of economy that we need to fund the public services to be the best in the world.”

She went on: “Particularly, I have asked them to look at Scotland’s productivity gap. We’ve seen huge productivity growth in the first eight years of the devolution process and that has slowed down; last year productivity in Scotland went down.

“Now, we’re never going to raise incomes the way we want and raise wages the way we want if we can’t solve the productivity gap.

“We won’t solve the fact that over the last year we have had less than half the economic growth in Scotland that the rest of the UK has seen, if we can’t fix this productivity gap…We are absolutely serious about becoming a strong capable, credible alternative government for Scotland,” added the party leader.

Lord Dunlop said he was delighted to accept Ms Davidson’s invitation to chair “this exciting new venture”.

“Scotland has world leading expertise in our universities, a competitive edge in sectors such as life science and oil and gas, and is one of the best places to live and work in the world. Scotland has what it takes; we now just need to make more of our potential.

“So, our new group's mission will be to come up with positive and imaginative new ideas for our devolved parliament with the aim of boosting Scottish growth.”

The Tory peer added: “The challenge is urgent. Scottish public spending is now more reliant than ever on our own economic growth. And if we don’t keep the economy moving forward, we won’t have the money to pay for vital public services.

“Our purpose is to show how Scotland can become the best part of the UK to do business and so deliver the growing tax revenues upon which our schools and hospitals rely.”

The council will meet regularly over the coming months and issue publicly available reports.