Two days ago Scotland on Sunday’s Eddie Barnes wrote a fascinating story about the SNP-Tory relationship. The article offered three main points:
- Alex Salmond has been giving advice to George Osborne on winning votes in Scotland.
- The SNP is about to ditch its long-standing opposition to coalition deals with the Conservatives [although Annabel Goldie is determined to stick with her no-coalitions pre-election promise].
- David Cameron and Alex Salmond are due to meet to discuss how they might work together if Cameron becomes PM and Salmond is still First Minister [- an increasingly likely scenario].
What does all of this mean? Both parties have narrow partisan interests in causing Labour trouble. Neither want the return of Labour to Scottish Government and the boost that would give Gordon Brown. You can rely, therefore, on the Tories keeping Alex Salmond as First Minister. Annabel Goldie and Murdo Fraser are exacting real gains for this support, however, on an issue-by-issue basis. Cuts in business rates and a freeze on council tax are the stand outs. More police officers and extra drug rehab places are the other big Tory policy aims.
One senior member of the Scottish party told me yesterday that the "decontamination of the Scottish Conservatives was nearly complete". The good working relationship with the SNP, in particular, had ended the party’s "pariah status". That, my contact said, could be very good for Tory prospects at the General Election.
The Scottish Tories are also working with Scottish Labour and the
Scottish LibDems on a package of measures that might increase the
potency of the Holyrood Parliament and reduce support for independence. That, above narrow party interest, must remain the key aim of the Conservative and Unionist Party. Ultimately the SNP must not prevail.