As you know I’m Glasgow’s only Conservative councillor and was elected in 2007.
I have therefore been taking an active interest in the contest to be the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives. We have four excellent candidates standing to be leader but I’m backing Murdo Fraser and want to set out why I believe members of the Scottish Conservatives should also support Murdo.
To begin with Murdo has the experience. Secondly, he has the vision we need in a new leader. And, thirdly, and most importantly, Murdo will deliver the real change which the party in Scotland requires.
As an elected Conservative councillor I believe that we need to transform our party into a new, winning force in Scottish politics and it should have a progressive, centre-right vision.
This new party with localism and a Scottish identity at the heart of its approach will also be well placed to attract people who share our values but don’t currently vote Conservative because it is clear that there are many people in Scotland who share our values but cannot vote for a party which they feel is run from England and isn’t Scottish.
This approach will also maintain and strengthen Scotland's position within the United Kingdom because with a new Unionism we can fight back against the SNP and see off the threat of independence.
Of course there are some who have publicly criticised Murdo’s plan. Some have said that this is a split. This is no split. The new party will stand for similar values and aims as the UK Conservatives but we will be two separate parties which will not compete with one another at elections. We will still be a part of the wider Conservative family but will have our own identity in Scotland and be free to develop policy positions in Scotland.
Some have also expressed concern at the idea of a name change. It is quite clear if Murdo wins he has the mandate to create a new party with a new name. Murdo will bring forward a series of options for a party name after the leadership election has been completed. We will then have a wide consultation on the issue, involving not only party members but all those in the wider Scottish centre-right movement. So this is not rebranding Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party it is about replacing SCUP with a new centre-right party for Scotland which will not be called the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.
We have to do this because we have to face up to facts. Things have to change or they could get worse. There is no point in a new captain if the ship is sinking. In 2010 the popular David Cameron was leader and we spent thousands on the election campaign fighting against a failing Labour government. We won one seat (no change from the 2005 general election). In 2011 we had a Conservative government in power at Westminster but also the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Annabel Goldie MSP, had huge personal poll ratings, was well received by the media and we went into the election with a strong narrative but the vote and number of MSPs declined.
So it is clear real change is required. What Murdo is proposing is not to take over a failing party but lead a new, winning centre-right party in order to reinvigorate centre-right politics in Scotland and take the fight to the other parties. I believe it will be attractive to the electorate.
There has already been huge interest from the Scottish business community in supporting a new centre-right party to strengthen the Union and take on the SNP. Murdo also won a poll conducted by the new Tory Hoose blog and has received the backing of the majority of MSPs, the MEP, over 40 councillors (many of them Group Leaders), senior figures in the UK Conservatives and hundreds of activists online and offline!
I will therefore be joining them and voting for Murdo Fraser and urge members of the party in Scotland to back him by giving him you 1st preference vote.