Carlaw kicks off Scottish Conservative leadership contest…

Jackson Carlaw, the interim leader of the Scottish Tories, has launched his bid to win the position full-time with a warning to members about the extent to which the Party might need to change to win power.

The Daily Telegraph reports his saying that “even some well-established” policy areas might need to be jettisoned ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021. Plans to set out a ‘blue-collar’ agenda could include dropping the Conservatives’ long-standing opposition to free tuition fees in Scotland, despite the s

Although Carlaw does not support radical change to the Party’s structures, especially the link to the British Tories, he has won the backing of MSPs sympathetic to such ideas such as Murdo Fraser and Adam Tomkins.

Senior party figures were reportedly hoping crown Carlaw in order to avoid spending three of the remaining 15 months before the Holyrood elections focusing inwards. However Michelle Ballantyne, the party’s shadow social security minister and a former nurse, has declared her intention to run if she can get the requisite 100 nominations from the membership. Writing in the Telegraph, she set out how her life experience gives her the very ‘blue-collar’ credibility which Carlaw intends to strive for.

He remains the overwhelming favourite to win. The real question is how he intends to fight the 2021 elections, and whether any candidates who have kept their powder dry this time might push for the leadership in the event of a disappointing result.

…as Scotland makes its present felt in the Labour leadership battle

The launch of the Labour leadership contest was remarkable, in part, for the almost complete absence of Scotland from analysis about the party’s election defeat and its path back to power.

Happily this is no longer the case, but the resultant debate has put a spotlight on a long-standing but growing division within the party about – or indeed, whether – to combat Scottish nationalism.

In an interview on Good Morning Scotland Jess Phillips set out her opposition both to Scottish independence and to another referendum on the question. She added that, in her view, Labour has suffered for not having clear stances on key issues such as independence and Brexit – and is probably aware that the party’s remaining Scottish vote leans heavily towards the Union.

Another strongly pro-UK candidate, this time for the deputy position, is Ian Murray, the MP for Edinburgh South. He has held his seat amidst two Scottish Labour wipe-outs in part by distancing himself from the wider party – at least one of his leaflets apparently featured endorsements from the Spectator and the Daily Telegraph but not the Labour logo.

Murray has actually refused to rule out creating a separate Scottish party, although he has not ruled it in either. This idea has been more forcefully advocated by Monica Lennon, the Scottish Labour health spokesperson, who believes that the reason for the party’s poor performance is that it is a ‘branch office’ of the UK party. There is frankly not much evidence for this, but an external scapegoat for political woes is not normally a difficult sell.

Clive Lewis has gone even further. Writing in the pro-independence National newspaper, he backed not only a separate Scottish party but also argued that the UK party should not stand in the way of another independence referendum should the Scottish Government seek one. Meanwhile a Scottish trades union leader has urged Labour to go so far as backing independence.

Johnson stands firm against Sturgeon’s referendum demand

The Prime Minister has hit out at the Scottish Nationalists, accusing them of fixating on independence in order to distract from their “abundant failures” in government north of the border. Boris Johnson highlighted critical areas such as schools and education where the Scottish Parliament has overseen falling standards.

Meanwhile Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, has confirmed that he has received a request for a second referendum from Nicola Sturgeon.

However he has reportedly said that it would be “completely wrong” to give the Scottish Parliament authority to hold binding votes on separation whenever it wishes, arguing that this would lead to a series of ‘neverendums’ wherein the SNP simply re-staged the vote until they finally won.

This is correct, but the case against actually runs deeper than that. As I have written previously, granting Holyrood the power to quit the Union whenever it wishes actually undermines what even the most mercenary federalist deems one of the UK’s core functions: the pooling and sharing of resources. The fate of the British State must always ultimately rest in the hands of the British Parliament.