Tory independence dividend

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson

The party conference season is in full swing and the Conservative  party took centre stage this week. The early part of the week was dominated by the Scottish Conservatives and leader Ruth Davidson’s provocative claim that Scotland is a nation of benefit ‘junkies’. A statement that even Michael Forsyth questioned.

Beyond this one of the main features of the conference was the extensive use of the union flag and a lot of better together rhetoric from the platform and across social media. Pretty much as you would expect from the party most strongly identified with unionism.

Unlike the Scottish Labour party who are now self-identified as a unionist party the Conservatives campaigned against devolution and even their official title in Scotland contains the word unionist. Yet, ironically, it was the very establishment of the Scottish parliament that they campaigned against, along with proportional representation, which made them a political factor in Scotland.

If Holyrood did not exist the Conservative representation on the national stage would comprise of a solitary Westminster MP. Without proportional representation, another innovation the party has railed against, their quota of MSPs would also be substantially reduced.

Now looking forward to what a post-independence Scotland could look like politically it is the very party that is most strenuously opposed to the concept that could be the biggest winners. The toxic Tories label still hangs around the neck of the party in Scotland preventing substantial electoral gains. Yet scratch below the surface and many Scots are conservative with a small c in their views and could quite easily support a centre-right party minus the Thatcher baggage.

Murdo Fraser recognised this in his 2011 leadership campaign and wanted to re-brand the party. It was too much of a leap of faith for the rank and file and the younger but more traditional Ruth Davidson triumphed. Any cutting, or even loosening, of ties with the UK party was unthinkable for many in the party but it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that it would be beneficial.

Some Conservatives in Scotland may have thought, indeed may still think, that they can ‘wait it out’ until the residual Thatcher inspired hatred subsides in Scotland. The problem is that it shows no signs of abating any time soon. How many people in Scotland agree with Conservative policies but claim they could never vote Tory because their dad/mum/grandparents would disown them? A whole generation of voters exist who were not even born when Thatcher was Prime Minister yet they have had it drummed into them by their parents that they can never forgive the Conservative party.

Similarly politicians such as Davidson and Gavin Brown are tarred with the toxic Tory brush despite being at school through the Thatcher years and regardless of their personal qualities and performance.

So if devolution made the Conservative party a political factor in Scotland it could be their nightmare scenario, an independent Scotland, that makes them a political force again.

Imagine a renamed and reinvigorated centre-right party in Scotland free from the shadow of Thatcherism and free from the image, real or imagined, of millionaire home county Tories imposing legislation on Scotland. Such a party could be a serious force in an independent Scotland. Or the party could get what it wants, the status quo with the Conservatives as hated as ever north of the border and gaining little more than a token elected presence.

Original article here

Scottish independence: Unionist opponents attack Salmond’s referendum focus

Opposition politicians have accused First Minister Alex Salmond of giving the Scottish independence campaign priority over Scotland’s well-being.

The comments follow Mr Salmond’s decision to move his deputy Nicola Sturgeon from her post as health secretary to spearhead the government’s referendum campaign.

Critics have hit out at the move dubbing Ms Sturgeon the “minister for independence”. The Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie, said: “This reshuffle shows that the SNP government only has eyes for independence. They are more interested in running the referendum than running the country. We have repeatedly warned that the SNP would use the power of Government to split Scotland from the rest of the UK.

Increasing numbers of civil servants are devoted to breaking up Britain draining desperately needed resources to the achieving the SNP’s ambition. With the appointment of the Deputy First Minister to the post of Minister for Independence our fears have been confirmed.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson echoed these sentiments claiming that the government should be concentrating on issues such as increasing NHS waiting lists. She went on to say:

“That the health of the nation now plays second fiddle to the break-up of Britain says it all about this SNP administration.

“The First Minister has moved his most trusted lieutenant from one of Scotland’s most critical briefs to pursue his narrow nationalist agenda.

“The sooner the distraction of the referendum is behind us the better, and Alex Salmond can do what he was elected to do which is to serve the best interests of all Scots, and not simply champion those of the separatist minority.”

Veteran Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm also criticised Ms Sturgeon’s new role saying: “Alex Neil knows a thing or two about infrastructure little about health, Nicola Sturgeon vice versa. Appalling [that] only [the] referendum matters now.”

However, the Scottish Green Party were more conciliatory in their response with co-convener Patrick Harvie urging ministers to make the most of their new posts. Mr Harvie said: “We welcome the focus on building the case for independence and promoting economic recovery, and urge the Scottish Government to be bold. Nicola Sturgeon needs to build a positive, compelling vision of a more equal and forward-thinking Scotland rather than trying not to scare the horses.

 

Original article here – http://www.scottishtimes.com/unionist_opponents_attack_salmond_referendum_focus