Davidson won’t rule out leading next ‘No’ campaign

Ruth Davidson has confirmed her intention to step down from the Scottish Parliament at the end of her current term in 2021 – but won’t rule out a return to fight against independence in another referendum, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The former Scottish Conservative leader, who stepped down in August, told the audience at a book festival that whilst she did not thing she would stand again for her Edinburgh Central constituency, she would be ready to step up and take on the SNP as part of the next ‘Better Together’ campaign.

In the meanwhile the Scottish Tories are still teeing up for the race to choose her successor. The threat of a serious attempt to split the Party, spearheaded by Murdo Fraser and Davidson loyalist Adam Tomkins, appears to have receded, with Alex Massie reporting this week that “questions of the future relationship between the Scottish party and its UK brethren are now clearly off the agenda.”

Meanwhile Jackson Carlaw, the interim leader, seems to be rowing his Party in behind the national leadership in London – although he insists in an interview with Stephen Daisley that he very much intends to push forward with ‘Project Ruth’ in the absence of the star product. This is part of a battle over her legacy which I predicted when she stepped aside.

Nor is he the only voice suggesting that the Tories might profit from being the only party to give a voice to Scotland’s more than one million Leave voters. Indeed Jamie Greene, another Conservative MSP, made that case on this site yesterday.

Whilst this goes on, the Scottish Tories have attacked the SNP over their refusal to back a Brexit deal, accusing Nicola Sturgeon’s party of seeking a ‘neverendum’ on the EU question to drive up support for independence. Carlaw has also fiercely criticised the First Minister over her apparent willingness to install Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street for the price of a second referendum on independence.

Democratic Unionists ‘under pressure’ over Brexit compromise

The DUP have found themselves on the wrong end of a historically familiar dynamic as they came in for extremely heavy fire for backing the Prime Minister’s proposed Brexit compromise.

The BBC reports how the party’s u-turn on previous opposition to any border down the Irish Sea has seen it attacked from both sides by both the hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice and the historically more moderate Ulster Unionist Party, whose former leader Reg Empey branded the proposals “ghastly” and mocked the DUP leader as “two-borders Foster”.

Such criticism will be uncomfortably familiar for the Democratic Unionists because it is precisely the tactic they unleashed against David Trimble in the wake of the Belfast Agreement, and used to great effect to supplant the UUP as the pre-eminent party of unionism in the Province.

Whilst initially defending the proposal, the DUP swiftly turned its fire on Leo Varadkar once it was rejected. Arlene Foster reportedly feels ‘aggrieved’ that her party didn’t receive more ‘covering fire’ from business and agricultural interests which had been pressing it to give ground.

As I wrote in CapX this week, this experience is extremely unlikely to induce either Downing Street – which has also criticised the Irish leader – or the DUP to give further ground.

Meanwhile Suella Braverman and Greg Hands, two of the MPs involved in Prosperity UK’s Alternative Arrangements Commission, have written in the Daily Telegraph that they now believe Dublin and Brussels had no intention of working in good faith towards an alternative to the Backstop.

Gove blasts Scottish Government over Brexit preparations

Michael Gove has said that he is “deeply worried” by the state of the Scottish Government’s preparations for a no-deal exit from the EU, the Press & Journal reports.

On the same day that John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, published the SNP’s plans, the Cabinet Office minister said that when he “scanned” the proposals he could not see that money from Whitehall was being passed on to the places and industries that needed it most, such as fishing.

Gove was speaking in the Commons after being pressed on the issue by Andrew Bowie, the Scottish Tory MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine.

He particularly criticised the decision to hand only £50,000 to each local authority, arguing that this was not sufficient for them to do everything they needed to do in a no-deal scenario. This would fit into a well-established pattern of the SNP central government undermining local government in Scotland.