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Oberon Houston: Scotland Needs Conservatives

HoustonoberonIt's been a turbulent fortnight for Scotland's Conservatives.  David McLetchie resigned the leadership of the Edinburgh Parliament's Tories and Annabel Goldie has replaced him.  Regular conservativehome blogger, Oberon Houston, kicks off a Platform debate about the future of our party north of the border...

Ask a selection of Scots whether it would be a good thing to allow the Tory Party to die out, and there is a good chance that the answer would be a collective ‘Aye’.

It’s hardly surprising, the party’s fall from grace has been a long one, but since Thatcher and the massively unpopular Poll-Tax, it has been especially dramatic. Today only one Westminster MP is left clinging on. Things have not always been so bleak, in the time of Heath there were twenty-two Scottish Conservative MPs, and back in the fifties the majority of Scottish MP’s were Tory. However, for the last thirty years Scottish politics has been dominated by the Left. But is this a good thing? If one was uncomfortable with the policies of the Left, who would you turn to for a credible alternative? Who would ensure that the governing party of the day was challenged and their policies scrutinised? Now Scots have their own parliament, who could come into power with an alternative approach, invigorating change and challenging the status-quo?

It’s an unhealthy situation for a country to be in, literally. In Scotland's largest city, Glasgow, despite the highest health spending per head of any city in the world, male life expectancy is lower than Libya – parts of Glasgow have a lower life expectancy than Iraq. Economically things are, if anything, worse, Glasgow is a city where over half of households earn no income at all, and there is little incentive or opportunity for those in this position to escape. Of those working in Scotland, 30% are employed by the public sector, yet the jobs that pay for this are disappearing. Manufacturing output is falling to worrying levels, Glasgow was once the world leader in ship building, yet new Scottish ships are now built for them - in Poland. Traditional sectors such as Fishing and Oil face an uncertain future, and who remembers Silicon Glen? Those that are hoping this is a temporary glitch have got a nasty shock coming. As the realities of globalisation kick in, the economies of Eastern Europe, China and India will continue to expand and compete, leaving those sitting on the fence with a bleak future.

The politics of consensus is failing Scotland, a country that needs to change and adapt to be successful in the years to come. Scotland needs strong political parties from both the Left and Right to form the future of the country, not just the Left.

One can hardly blame Labour for their success, or more correctly, the failings of other political persuasions, one must look to the Conservative Party for answers. Devolution may have appeared a threat, however it is now a reality, and it can be turned into an opportunity. An opportunity to form Conservatism north of the border to provide Scots with their own centre-right alternative. Fresh thinking is something that has been a rarity in the Conservative Party in recent years, but that needs to change, and change soon, for everyone’s sake.

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