Douglas Ross has said Rishi Sunak’s plan for national service can help tackle Scotland’s loneliness crisis.

The Scottish Conservative leader unveiled the proposal announced by the Prime Minister on Saturday night, saying it was about “providing more opportunities for young people.”

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The policy - which would see 18-year-olds forced to either join the military for 12 months or spend one weekend a month for a year volunteering for civil agencies like the police, fire service and the NHS - has been widely mocked.

National service conscription last took place in the UK in 1960.

The Prime Minister said the policy would help unite society in an “increasingly uncertain world” and give young people a “shared sense of purpose”.

The plan involves a royal commission tasked with bringing forward a proposal for how to ensure the first pilot is open for applications in September 2025.

After that, it would seek to introduce a new National Service Act to make the measures compulsory by the end of the next Parliament, the party said.

Appearing on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Mr Ross was asked when he first learned of the proposal.

He said: “Well, we have discussions all the time with the party about policy both at UK level and the Scottish level.

“And one of the things we've been speaking about is providing more opportunities for young people.

“We know following the Covid pandemic that young people were one of the biggest cohort of people affected by the pandemic. So I welcome any opportunity to give young people the chance to perhaps get involved in the military service or the police or the NHS.”

He added: “Also, there is a large opportunity to get involved in the voluntary sector and loneliness is actually one of the things that is highlighted in the government's proposals here.”

Mr Ross spoke an event he attended in the Scottish Parliament on tackling loneliness.

“That's a big issue here in Scotland, so perhaps we could help give opportunities for young people but also help older people who are feeling lonely in Scotland.”

He added: “The other thing I would say is that the Prime Minister has announced that there will be a Royal Commission on this and I think this is exactly the type of thing that the Royal Commission will look at to hopefully take away the party political nature of this and work with people across the political spectrum across the military, across civic UK and Scotland to look at what opportunities there could be for young people.”

The most recent Scottish Household Survey - taken in 2020 and published in January 2022 - found that 35% of adults reported feeling lonely at least some of the time in the last week, and 44% rarely or never met others socially.

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The SNP has raised concerns over the funding for the national service, with around £1.5 billion of the £2.5bn cost coming from the UK shared prosperity fund, the post-Brexit replacement for EU structural funds.

Amy Callaghan, candidate for Mid Dunbartonshire, said: “The SNP will stand firm against Tory plans to slash Scotland’s funding and impose mandatory national service on young people – showing why it’s essential to vote SNP to get rid of the Tory government and put Scotland first.”

Dame Jackie told Times Radio: “This looks like another multibillion-pound unfunded commitment from the Tories. It’s not a plan of activity but a review.

“And certainly in the case of the armed forces, the Tories have actually hollowed out the armed forces so that they are the smallest since the days of Napoleon, which is quite extraordinary.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Even by Rishi Sunak’s standards, this proposal is absurd, immoral and desperate.

“It has no place in a modern democracy, let alone in the manifesto of a party that is serious about governing.”