As the Scottish Conservatives are examining their role in modern Scottish politics maybe we should take a look at our more successful colleagues in Wales.
The Welsh Conservatives should be held up as a success story for the Scottish Conservatives to look to. From the 1997 wipeout, the Tories in Wales have built themselves back up to the point where the Conservatives topped the European Election poll in 2009, which has to be a fantastic achievement for a party that returned no MPs only 12 years previously.
But how did they do it? As I can see it, a factor in their success was that they simply became a bit more Welsh. I'll put it another way: they shrugged off all the talk of British this and British that and they were saying Wales this and Wales that.
That brings me to the Scottish Tories. We've been slowly recovering some ground in Scotland but at a very slow rate. The General Election result must be a wake-up call to the party that we need to do something different.
Being on the ground during the election talking to people, I picked up the following broad message: Scots feel that the Scottish Conservatives are just the English with a different name. The talk of British General Elections and British Parliaments simply just makes the majority of Scots feel uncomfortable, it always has since 1707.
So what can we do? Simply, let's become a bit more Scottish. There are many ways that we could approach this but I'd like to discuss just one method: let's support the idea of asking the Scottish people their view about Scotland's constitutional future in a referendum. As we should, we would be campaigning for a No vote to Independence, but we should support more powers for Holyrood as outlined by the Calman Commission.
It is my firm belief that by doing this we would show to the people of Scotland that:
- We do trust them to decide their own future
- We are confident that there will be a pro-union vote
- We accept that Scotland is a devolved nation, able to make its own choices on its home affairs and that it should be given greater flexibility
Such a move would help the Scottish Tories to shrug off the words of electoral death in Scotland (Margaret Thatcher) and also to reduce the feeling that the Scottish Tories are just the English in disguise.
There is a saying that comes to mind when writing this: “Fortune Favours the Bold”. Well, if we do what I'm suggesting, we'll be being very bold – but we may also just help save our electoral chances in Scotland from terminal decline.