By Tim Montgomerie
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ConservativeHome asked YouGov to investigate Murdo Fraser MSP's suggestion that the Scottish Conservative Party develop a more distinct identity and with different policies from the rest of the UK Conservative Party. The answers are not dramatic but they do suggest that the change could have a positive effect – particularly among younger Scots.
The survey of 1,030 Scottish voters found that 33% thought that the change would have a positive affect while 20% thought it would have a negative effect. 18 to 24 year olds were most positive; by 43% to 15%. 40% of all Scots think the change would make no difference.
The table below summarises the results:
Murdo Fraser's campaign was given a boost yesterday when Francis Maude became the first Cabinet minister to back his proposal. Maude was Party Chairman when the idea was first floated and he was positive about it then. Quoted in The Herald Mr Maude said that a separate Scottish Party could be good for the Union:
“You could make the case that when it comes to a referendum on independence, the case for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom is more effectively made by the party which is incontrovertibly and unambiguously Scottish, rather than one that still has in Scotland a bit of baggage of looking like the tail end of an English party.”
Jackson Carlaw MSP, the third candidate in the race to succeed Annabel Goldie, has put forward his own idea for shaking up the Scottish party. Reported in The Telegraph, Mr Carlaw recommends term limits for sitting Tory MSPs:
“I would ask the (party management) board to consider term limits of MSPs being elected three times or re-elected three times consecutively on the list. I realise that’s going to be unpopular with some, I realise it’s controversial, but I believe we have to substantially renew the face of its party, not its name. Leadership requires that you take tough decisions… At the end of the day, if you’ve had four terms as a list MSP, that’s four times you’ve failed to win your (constituency) seat. Nobody is entitled to sit permanently in parliament. There’s a generation of talent emerging now that I think we’ve got to do our very best to promote.”
Ruth Davidson is in many ways the freshest candidate in the race. A newly-elected MSP and a lesbian she is seen by some modernisers as the candidate who would present the most dramatically new face for the Scottish party but she is, at least in terms of policy, looking like the continuity candidate. One journalist has noted that Scottish Conservative Central Office is the "self-preservation society". Although nearly all MSPs are backing Murdo Fraser SCCO officials have been telling London that Ruth Davidson is the best candidate but are their motives pure? Both Murdo Fraser and Jackson Carlaw would probably oversee a shake up of SCCO. Tory staffers are backing her, my source says, as the best way of keeping their jobs. That's not Ruth Davidson's fault but it is something that her London backers should note.