Jonathan Deb is the Organising Secretary of Midlothian Conservatives.
In the Holyrood elections two years ago, this party achieved an amazing result that swept out the old myth that the Tories are toxic in Scotland.
If we want to win in 2021, we need to evolve and develop our campaigning strategy to ensure every household in Scotland hears our message. We need to ensure strong organisation throughout the party to enable a large active grass roots campaign force.
The 2016 election deprived the SNP of their majority and catapulted the Scottish Conservatives into second place, well ahead of Labour. The following year we displaced Labour as the second-largest party of local government and achieved second place in a Westminster election for the first time in a quarter of a century.
In order to ensure our continued success we should seek to develop and grow our activist base. Whilst the SNP and Labour have seen significant recent rises in activists, the Scottish Conservatives do not appear to have seen a similar increase and this could place the gains we made in 2016/2017 in jeopardy.
If we are serious about wanting to put Ruth Davidson in Bute House, we will need to start recruiting activists and making party fighting fit for the 2021 Holyrood election.
The Scottish party has already come on leaps and bounds in recent years in creating an inclusive atmosphere for new activists, a welcoming message to anyone who wants to join, and a fresh Code of Conduct applying standards of behaviour to all in the party.
As well as this the party has introduced the Super Saturday campaign days. These are year-round campaign events across all of Scotland, drawing activists from a wider region, developing a sense of community within the party, and delivering the conservative message consistently. Scottish Conservatives know that every vote matters and the idea of no-go areas has been cast into history.
But we need to go further, and enhance our current activists with the skills, training, and development needed to make them a powerful political force within Scotland. Equally, we need to equip our activists with their own recruitment toolkit to grow our volunteer base within all communities.
We need to consider why people becoming active in a political party, whether it be a sense of community, improving local services, the prospect of friendship, or simply helping people. We should encourage an open discussion around policy and campaigning approaches across all levels of the party, to enable local associations and volunteers to contribute to national strategy.
One of the great strengths of the Scottish Conservatives is the wealth of the skills and experiences of our members and supporters. We should seek to develop an internal dialogue to enable ideas to filter bottom-up as well as top-down. This would help motivate local associations and volunteers to campaign for the party using the strategy and policies they helped develop.
In my own local association of Midlothian, over the last year we have managed to see a five-fold increase in revenue, four-fold increase in membership, and have gone from no councillors for over 20 years to holding 28 per cent of the council seats, including electing for the first time ever a Conservative Provost of Midlothian.
In the 2017 parliamentary election we achieved the best Conservative vote since 1979, and have moved from being almost 19,000 votes behind in 2015 to now fewer than 5000 votes from winning the seat.
The way we achieved this was by running a local campaign, with clear notice of future campaigning dates and frequent social events following campaigns, and by utilising the unique skills of our volunteers over a variety of campaign platforms. Working closely with our volunteers and facilitating their ideas within the association, we were able to achieve double-digit vote share gains in almost every ward and strengthen our association too.
In 2016 we shot to second by having a clear campaign based on a credible pitch to voters. If in 2021 we match this with better-organised structures, I have no doubt that we will make Davidson First Minister.