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Tory members recommend greater autonomy for Scottish Party

By Tim Montgomerie

In an article for today's Scotland on Sunday I note the depressed position of the Scottish Conservatives:

"At the 1997 General Election every Scottish Conservative candidate was defeated. At three subsequent General Elections Scotland has sent just one Scottish Tory to Westminster. Peter Duncan in 2001 and then after Duncan was unseated in 2005, David Mundell MP. Nothing seems to revive the Scottish Conservatives. Thirteen years of Labour government that ended in a record-breaking bust. Sleaze at the top of the Scottish Labour Party before 2007. The Iraq war. The rise of nationalism under Alex Salmond. The release of the Lockerbie bomber. These events have come and gone but the Scottish Conservatives have stayed flat on the floor... Tory strategists inside 10 Downing Street scratch their heads. David Cameron committed everything he had to his 'respect for Scotland' agenda. He rejected calls to review the Barnett formula and therefore cut Scotland's share of UK spending. He also rejected calls for an English Parliament. He didn't want to do anything that might antagonise Scottish voters and missed out on a strategy that might have won extra votes south of the border."

The Scottish Tory leadership is aware of the problem and have commissioned Lord Sanderson to conduct a review into tactics and organisation. Some believe the party doesn't need a radical overhaul. They point to the results of the 2010 General Election and argue that the party was close to a breakthrough. The Liberal Democrats, they note, won 11 MPs with 465,000 votes and the SNP have six MPs with 491,000 votes. The ‘one-last-heave’ faction argue that smarter targeting of resources should help the Tories do a lot better than one MP off the back of their existing 412,000 votes.

A survey of Tory members by ConservativeHome finds little support for the 'one-last-heave' strategy, however:

Screen shot 2010-10-02 at 16.58.57 I conclude my SoS article by arguing that organisational changes would provide the foundation for a revived right-of-centre party:

"Once these organisational changes are made the new Scottish party and its leader can begin presenting policies designed to reboot the Scottish economy and public services. Every other nation in the western world has a popular right-of-centre party and Scotland should be no exception. The breakthrough might not come immediately but free from what is regrettably a toxic connection with the English Conservatives, the new Scottish party can begin putting forward positive policies of its own. David Cameron has nothing to lose from allowing Scotland's Conservatives to become semi-detached. At present they just bring one seat to the Commons. A new, patriotic, right-of-centre party, cut free from English baggage, might bring a dozen or more seats into a right-of-centre coalition with him."


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