Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Key to a Scottish Tory Revival

If reports are true the Scottish Conservative Party is to be given its freedom to go its own way. It is likely to be called the Unionist Party. With devolution now irreversible I see little alternative and it offers the Scottish Tories the best chance of reviving after two decades in the doldrums.

However, and it is a big however, I have to say I have not yet seen anyone north of the border who is likely to provide the ideas and inspiration for such a revival. As a group of politicians, Welsh AMs are far superior to their Scottish MSP counterparts and in Wales they are about to reap the rewards.

Those of who don't live in Scotland do not realise the extent to which the UK Parliament has already become an irrelevance to the Scottish media. In some ways Scotland already is a separate country. The Scottish Tories have got to not only live with that but develop an identity which recognises it and to some extent embraces it. They cannot achieve that if their every move is second guessed by a London based party which doesn't understand the new Scottish politics.

Let's hope that someone in Scotland emerges after the May elections who can kickstart a right of centre revival in a country that so desperately needs one.


Newmania said...

That will consist of joining in with the competitiion to spend as much English money as they can. There is only one answer now. Independence for England. I would add that the political elite appear to have not visted England either to whom Scotland is no longer regarded as more intimately connected than Ireland .

Newmania said...

"Tory leader David Cameron, who has already had to distance himself from his shadow Scottish secretary's criticism of the Edinburgh party, dismissed the report.

His official spokesman said it was possible that some "random Conservative" had mentioned this idea in passing.

But he added: "There are no plans to do anything like this. We're just completely focused on the Scottish elections, and the English and Welsh elections."

An official in Scotland also said: "It's not on our radar. Full stop."

Have I shot your fox ?

Anonymous said...

Time for Scots tories to preach what they practise....
if being independent tories is good enough then they have to get with the programme and over half the scottish people.

The problem with Scotland's devolved settlement is that Scotland cannot adjust its fiscal policy to suit itself like Ireland.

Scotland is saddled with its neighbours policy - which is right and proper for the good neighbour.

But it would be ludicrous to suggest that Portugal adopt Spanish policies lock stock and barrell. yet Scotland has to take London's policies.

And it does not matter that a Scotsman is head of the London treasury the mix of factors taken into account will mean roughly that policy will always be for London area - even if Robert Burns was chancellor :-)

All the best Enjoy Easter

Scotland Expects

jailhouselawyer said...

Bob Piper says that you are looking for a flying pig. Have you found it yet?

Anonymous said...

That Labour is (or has been until recently) so dominant in both local government and elections to the Scottish and Westminster parliaments is testament not only to the dearth of talent in the Scottish Conservative party, but the move away from "One Nation" conservatism epitomised by Margaret Thatcher.

The disastrous impact of the poll tax being tried out in Scotland one year ahead of England and Wales is still felt here. It will probably take a generation for the Conservatives to recover from it.

Nonetheless the Conservatives have a big opportuinity. Scotland is a naturally conservative country. And indeed voted Conservative as recently as the 1950s.

As Scotland increasingly takes more control over its own affairs, and has to take responsibility for its own mistakes, voters will look more and more for competent management in Edinburgh and start to question the records of the Labour establishment. That has to be good news for conservatism in the long run.

Anonymous said...

It is perhaps regrettable, but under El Presidente Bliar the Westminster parliament is increasingly not only an irrelevance north of the border.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I have yet to see a proper and fair analysis of the situation in Scotland from any of our Southern bloggers, what they do is listen to a small cabal within the Scottish conservative party.
This group are a lot more responsible for some of the recent failures to advance in elections because internal warfare. As for the Scottish media writing us off, well that will continue while they continue to be fed briefings to that effect by some within the party!
As for becoming more divorced from the national party, that might give those with a more right wing agenda more scope to go back to Thatcherite policies which will be a disaster for us.
The national party needs every MP it can get at the next GE, it will return more MP's in Scotland if it remains connected to the Westminster party and David Cameron. Go the other way and it won't just be voters saying "what's the point of voting tory", many activists may think that there is no point at all being a conservative.
Get out and chat to other MSP's and councillors up North.

Old BE said...

Given operational independence and presumably the freedom then to support national independence, why would they call themselves the Unionist party?

Peter Smallbone said...

If it becomes a totally separate party, there won't be anything to stop Tories in Scotland joining the England/Wales Conservatives - there was a recent case where Labour was forced to accept membership from people in NI even though they don't organise there. Could lead to some interesting outcomes...

Anonymous said...

If this is true, I think it would be a good move. If you operate in a regional parliament then you cannot be constrained by national politics. It will give the Scots Torys the freedom and space to operate, whilst ensuring there is a broad consensus for "converative" policies.

Good move - and lately that is not something you can often say about ideas coming from the Conservatives.

Anonymous said...

"Unionist" - as in "parasite".

Anonymous said...

yet more Gordon Brown megalomania - funded of course by robbing the taxpayer. His delusions of grandeur are frightening - and he's no even in no.10 yet.

Anonymous said...

Iain, you are quite right to say there is no going back on devolution - the trend, whether the majority in Scotland see it at present on not is a kingdom (or republic) of Scotland. The English (and that includes the Tory Party) must wake up to that, and decide just where they wish to go (leaving aside issues about the EU). Do they want to move to a nation state of England, or do they want to maintain the "Union" and bankroll the Republic of Scotland? This will not go away.

Cicero said...

But Iain, the fact is that Scotland always has been a separate country- but the Conservatives declined because they refused to accept what that meant.

I want neither a socialist nor a separatist Scotland, but unless people in the rest of the UK allows, indeed asks, the Scottish Executive to take fiscal responsibility for their competencies then the Union will become ever more fractious. I do not beleive that the Union is irrepairably damaged, but I do think that the answer to the West Lothian question and the question of finances is simple: a federal system with each part of the UK taking on more power vis a vis Whitehall - including England either as a whole, or as regions or as counties, depending on what the population of England expresses a preference for.

Man in a Shed said...

Its kill or cure time for the Scottish party.

Having been a member in the Aberdeen branch I know what great people they are (it was by far the best branch I've ever been a member of.) But something has to change - or else they will find themselves in a different party by virtue of being in a different country.

It also gives us a potential winning angle of being the English party.

Labour will have to respond - but how ?

Anonymous said...

The wearing of clan colours has - I believe - been behind the recent outbreaks of violence in several Scottish cities, including Dundee!

Anonymous said...

There has always been a hardcore of anti-devolution Unionist Tories in Scotland. The risk is that in going through eith this, the Tories isolate them while failing to pick up new votes from elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

It should be called British Caledonian Party in memory of a great airline

Mr Eugenides said...

Cicero is correct. It's impossible to argue for smaller government in Scotland, because politicians can promise (and deliver) spending rises without having to go cap in hand to the electorate for the money. It's easy to spend money when it's someone else's, and very difficult to argue that it shouldn't be spent when it's there on the table.

The only way Scottish Conservatives, whatever they call themselves (I'd be amazed if they called themselves 'Unionists'), can make any kind of dent in the statist consensus north of the border is via fiscal autonomy. If the other parties want to argue for even higher public spending, fine; but they will have to go to the electorate and justify their tax hikes to them personally. Hopefully that will begin to shift the balance of the argument back towards the right.

I wouldn't believe Cameron's denials. This makes sense for the English party, and is also probably in the interests of the Scots party in the longer term.

It's rather like a man in his twenties living at home - at some point the parents have to turf him out, and both parties know that some short-term pain may be required for long-term success.

Anonymous said...


That will consist of joining in with the competitiion to spend as much English money as they can. There is only one answer now. Independence for England.

Yes please, bring it on! This can't come soon enough for me.

If Cameron is serious about focussing on the Scots and and English elections then he'd better wake up and smell the scent of insurrection in the air north and south of the border.

He also BADLY needs to apologise for his comments about 'sour little Englanders'. The majority of us in England are decidely sour at present - and with bloody good cause.

Auntie Flo'

Anonymous said...

Fiscal Automomy will not work in the UK. It is a non-starter. It simply cannot work given that the UK is a unitary state, with its constituent parts have such disparities in size and in wealth. What taxes do we devolve to the Scottish Parliament? To have any effect we'd need to have Holyrood control Income Tax, VAT and NI (the three single largest revenue generators in Scotland). Corporation tax too, and don't forget the remainder of North Sea Revenues. But that leaves the question, what taxes do we "reserve" to Westminster to cover Scotland's share of reserved expenditures like defence and foreign affairs? More importantly will they cover Scotland's share of such expenditures? Most likely not. And we're back to the situation we currently find ourselves in. The only solution would be to devolve ALL taxes to the Scottish Parliament, and then the Scottish Parliament pays Westminster for Scotland's share of reserved expenditures, but that is just the same as independence.....

The only solution is independence. I know devolution is "independence for slow learners", but what does it take for people to see that the Political and Economic Union is a gonner? The only way out of this situation is to revert to the pre-Holyrood era. Ain't gonna happen. Federation and fiscal autonomy won't work. What else is there? Independence and that's probably the best thing.

trinitylaw said...

One niggling point: the constitution of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association (SCUA) only in fact states that it is 'affiliated' with the English Conservatives, so in fact Fraser Nelson's piece in the Spectator was slightly off in suggesting that there might be some kind of 'velvet divorce' between the parties North and South of the border given that they are not united in any event.

However, on his wider argument (and I see yours too), that the Scottish Tories should go their own way, and possible rebrand, I'm afraid that that would only be a concession to rising nationalism on both sides of the borders. Brwon and Blair hit the Union hard with the ill thought out and botched constitutional meddling which was Scottish devolution: for Cameron now to ditch the Scottish Tories now would only be to further kick the Union when it is already down. The current affiliation between Scottish and English Conservative AND Unionists should stay (as I'm arguing hard on my own blog!).

Brian Monteith said...

Not for the first time Mr Euginides is spot on. Cato's technicality matters little - it's the money that counts not rules that are kept in dusty drwaers and that can be amended if push comes to shove. Donations to the Scottish Party have all but dried up with most donations now going straight to London. This means there is no real autonomy and everyone knows this.

Here's an example. Annabel Goldie was absolutely furious with David Mundell over the leak of his report - and his behaviour towards afterwards. She would have liked to discipline him - even see him demoted or publicly rebuked - but she was powerless to act. She had then and has now no real influence.

As for Anonymous, if he were to reveal himself I'd send him a copy of my latest book explaining why fiscal autonomy is not just necessary but desirable - and how it could work for Scotland and be the harbinger of a Tory revival.

The name Unionist is taken by the way - and we wouldn't want it - it is despised by many people that are natural conservatives but associate it (sadly, but correctly) with Orangeism. It is also too limiting, as any rebranded party will be about more than just unionism. Labour is a unionist party - nobody disputes this – so is the Liberal Democrat Party but neither feels the need to use the word unionist in their official name.

Similarly, there are many parties in the world that are conservative that don't use that description in their name - just look at the International Democratic Union web site and you'll find only three in Europe using that description.

For now the focus must and should be on trying to get the best possible election result in the Holyrood and council elections – but the tectonic plates are already shifting and after 3rd May an almighty earthquake is likely to shake the party to its core.

David Lindsay said...

The popular (or could-be-popular) conservatives in Scotland should have ditched the parasitic body Thatcherite-Cameroon elitist Saint Andrews Boys years ago.

It is seamless, of course. Thatcherism was the deliberate economic entrenchment of the social revolution sponsored and supported by the Tory toffs in the 1960s, even if enacted during a period of Labour government, though almost never as a matter of government policy and mostly in the teeth of considerable Labour opposition. Those same upper-class elements were Thatcherism's principal economic beneficiaries.

Blairism is the further entrenchment of that double revolution, particularly with regard to the Constitution (in the elite rather than the popular interest, contrary to what is generally supposed).

And the Cameroons are the end result to date, simply not conservatives in any way at all, and therefore unable to command electoral support outside the South East, where the party that they have infested already holds most of the seats without that's having done them the first bit of good with regard to the pursuit of office.

Of course, none of the above points applies only in or to Scotland. Does it?