Perhaps I should be more worried than I am but I do not sense that Scotland voted for independence last Thursday. Those votes that were counted were largely cast for Unionist parties and all democrats can welcome the end of Labour’s fifty year dominance north of the border. The main worry is that a nationalistic First Minister will fan anti-Scottish feeling in England.
What remains worrying is the continuing weakness of Scotland’s Tories. Despite her energetic campaigning Annabel Goldie now leads a smaller parliamentary group than before last Thursday. There are now 17 Tory MSPs when there were 18. The Cameron effect – so evident against the LibDems in southern England – is absent from Scotland.
ConservativeHome believes that for the Scottish party to prosper it needs to be seen as distinctively Scottish. As we have argued before:
"With its own distinct identity the Scottish Unionist Party (the name of the party until 1965 and a possible name for the ‘new party’) could be a leading advocate of The Union and would be more likely to be seen to be motivated by an unambiguous commitment to Scotland’s interests rather than those of England. The election of its leader – which should follow independence – would give the party the serious debate it desperately needs about its long-term identity. Should it be defined by its Unionism, for example, or by a commitment to provide an alternative to the high tax, anti-business parties that dominate the Scottish landscape."
By 43% to 35% more members of the Conservative Party agree that a Scottish party with its policies, name and structure would be a welcome change. The Scottish Tories who took part in the April ConservativeHome poll are evenly divided on the issue, however. From a very small sample of 118 members, 47% supported a separate party but 47% opposed any change.
Bruce Anderson rejects the idea of independence for the Scottish party in his Monday column for The Independent:
"Mr Cameron has two contradictory objectives. He would like to give the Scottish Tories more independence. He would also like to sort them out. He should concentrate on the latter. In the short term, the Scottish Tories are about as ready for independence as the Belgian Congo was. Scottish Toryism has always been the party of the Union. It was also the party of business, and the party of Scottish patriotism within the United Kingdom. Those are still formidable electoral assets. It only requires formidable politicians to turn them into votes. David Cameron understands this. Now, while the Scottish Tories are congratulating themselves on reaching third place, he must move fast and hard to rebuild the party. In so doing, he can create a vital component in the fight to save the Union."
I am not persuaded by Bruce Anderson’s preference for central control. It would only reinforce the sense that the party is controlled from England. Also, CCHQ’s attempts to ‘sort out’ the London Mayoral candidate do not offer much hope that the party will be adept at finding talent to rebuild the Scottish party. Despite a lot of opposition from some of the party’s most long-serving Scottish figures David Cameron should give the Scottish party its independence. It should enjoy the same kind of relationship that the CDU and the CSU have in Germany. If we truly believe in localism and the dangers of centralisation we should give the Scottish party this opportunity for freedom. The current arrangements are certainly not working.
TOMORROW: BRIAN MONTEITH WILL DISSECT THE SCOTTISH RESULTS