An interesting article in this morning’s Herald from Douglas Fraser. Mr Fraser suggests that the Scottish Tories, now led by Annabel Goldie MSP, may be preparing to fight next year’s Holyrood elections on a platform that is more conservative than that being advocated by David Cameron in the more Tory setting of England.
The Scottish Tories, for example, want a moratorium on all onshore wind farms and they enthusiastically support new nuclear plants in Scotland. Although not a devolved matter they want to withdraw from the EU’s common fisheries policy whilst London wants to negotiate with Brussels about fishing policy. Characterising Mr Cameron’s approach to anti-social behaviour as "hug ’em and snog ’em", Mr Fraser says Scottish Tories are more of the "hang ’em and flog ’em" variety with an enthusiasm for offenders to be locked up for longer sentences. Mr Cameron is famously pragmatic on drugs policy but Annabel Goldie is not. Her instinct, it is reported, is to fight next year’s elections on being ‘tough on drugs’. Scotland may be less economically conservative but Scottish Tories think it is more socially conservative than much of the rest of the UK.
Douglas Fraser’s conclusion:
"We have David Cameron shifting his party into the softish, touchy-feely centre ground to challenge New Labour, and leaving his Scottish party to his right. He wants success to be measured by "general wellbeing" as much as by economic growth, and he stresses how much he values public service. The market, once the answer to every Thatcherite question, is no longer the only solution. Significantly, senior Scottish Tory figures don’t want to emphasise the border at the Tweed. The boundary line they have in mind is the Trent, pointing out that Scotland is like much of northern England, in refusing to respond to the new brand of Toryism. One explanation offered is that Scotland is more socially conservative than southern England, at least on justice and drugs, meaning Cameron’s liberalism can only go so far north. But it is some irony that we could be heading into the 2007 Holyrood campaign with the Scottish Tories closer to traditional Toryism and the rightward leadership thrust of Cameron’s predecessors than to the modernised Cameron leadership. Annabel Goldie could find herself the standard-bearer for old-time Conservatism, markets and efficiency, a challenge to the dominance of the state, and possibly a promise of a tax cut."
Ms Goldie is said to be undecided on whether to advocate using the Edinburgh Parliament’s freedom to cut income tax but something needs to be done to boost Scotland’s economy. Latest GDP figures show that Gordon Brown’s backyard is still economically weaker than the UK as a whole.