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Greetings from Scotland.
Don't you just love PR.......

Yes, I do.

"...a new generation of nuclear power stations, council tax reform, more devolution of power to schools and reform of the financially mismanaged Scottish Enterprise..."

Not all to my taste, but things Scottish Conservatives would be proud of achieving.

By-elections point to modest Tory gains?

Look at the disastrous Moray by-election where the SNP thrashed a list MSP as candidate (Mary Scanlon).

That was after the disastrous Westminster by-election in Dunfermline where Carrie Ruxton (selected in preference to a popular local councillor) decimated the Tory share of the vote.

My parents live in a Tory ward in Scotland. In their constituency, a former Tory seat, the Lib Dems won it from Labour and won it in 2005. A pact with Labour will not attract voters back to the Tories.

Time for a rethink!!

Derby Conservatives have recently propped up the Labour party in the City Council. The Lib Dems really threw their toys out of the pram at the first full council.

Anyway, talk of the Tories propping up Labour are irrelevant as the Liberal Democrats are going to be the largest party come next May!

If Labour perform badly and are rejected the majority of voters I cannot see the sense of supporting a discredited government - the discredit then starts to apply to us as well.

Its right the Scots Party are hungry for power but I think we should stand back and wait for suitors rather than decide in advance what our position will be.

Rather them than me: knocking on doors of tory voters telling them you vote tory and get Labour.

Shurely shome mishtake in this story?

We really need to re-assess what's going on in Scotland, the situation is dire. Does anybody have any quick figures on how extensively we are represented north of the boarder (ie How many councillors do we have, MSPs etc) is there any hope?

The story has been slightly twisted from what Annabel Goldie and her deputy Murdo Fraser have said - namely that coalition is not the be-all and end-all of politics and working together on an issue by issue basis is an option that must be considered.

Obviously it remains likely that Labour will be the largest party and therefore they will have first option on whether they form a minority government or not, but there's been no mention of the Tories propping up Labour as such, merely floating the idea of non-coalition government.

Henry - Full details of MSP and councillor numbers can be found here.

Or, in the case of this blog, vote blue, get read.

Clearly not on the same scale as the Scottish parliament, but the reds and blues on my local council have just decided to unite against the Liberal Democrats.

"Obviously it remains likely that Labour will be the largest party and therefore they will have first option on whether they form a minority government or not"

Some opinion polls suggest the SNP could be the largest party, and they seem to want to work with the Lib-Dems, the SSP and possibly the greens.

Blue Labour

While supporting labour may be a bitter pill, i think it will solve the biggest problem the tories have in Scotland, that of being an irrelavence. The public don't hate us any more, indeed we have more membvers than any other party in scotland, we are just seen as a bit meaningless.

The number of times we go door knocking and get told that people are conservatives, but its a waste of time voting for us in Scotland. If we can be seen to be out of the p[olitical wilderness it will do us more good than any policy.

Recent by elections have all be acceptable apart from the Dumfermline one which was a disaster even though it was just a tactical vote to keep Labour out. Morray saw our vote go up, and we were running an MSP againsty and SNP MSP with a very hopstile media.

In the south of Scotland the real magic is happening. We have 2 constituancy MSP's, and MP, and 2 list MSP's. A recent council by-election saw us getting 26% swing form the SNP, so anything is possible in the south. The seat i live in needs only a 3% swing from the lib dems to return a tory MSP. And if the last general electuion had been fought on the old bounderies Scotl;and would have returned 7 MP's.

The death of the Scottish Tories is greatly exagerated. But it would be nice if our friends south orf the border would give us some help from time to time, we certainly do, Scottish tories helped at the cheadle by-election last year, i've yet to see English tories up for a Scottish by-election.

A call to arms from Andrew!

I'm not surprised that Labour are desperate to ditch the Liberal Democrats as coalition partners, given that the Liberal Democrats will not hesitate to stitch them up when it suits them.

The excellent Fib Dems blog is fast becoming a must-read for me.

If it's a choice between a Tory-Labour coalition and a Lib Dem-SNP-Green/hippy coalition then I'd definitely go for the former. However, I think the best option is simply to remain independent and vote with Labour on issues where we agree with them. This would allow us to bring about positive legislation in Scotland while having the power to block lesgislation we're less keen on. If supporting Labour helps bring about conservative policies then so be it.

Which council is that comstock?

Andrew (Hardie)- Do you have contacts in the South of Scotland? I'm quite interested in developing informal ties with successful associaions to see if there is anything my association can learn from them through fact finding visits (aka visits to the pub)etc.

"Which council is that comstock?"

Derby City Council

Thought so Comstock. Didn't think 2 councils had done that.

I won't comment on the details. It will get me into a lot of trouble.

"Andrew (Hardie)- Do you have contacts in the South of Scotland? I'm quite interested in developing informal ties with successful associaions to see if there is anything my association can learn from them through fact finding visits (aka visits to the pub)etc."

My local association is Midlothian, which is not especially successful, but things are starting to turn round. But i could certainly put you into contact with the Chairman of the DCT tories (the ones with the MP) if that is any use to you?

Be interesting to see how long it lasts, Andrew.

I don't know the ins and outs of the decision(unlike you it seems!) but the Lib/Dems must have royally p***ed both Lab and Tories off for them to take this road!

I totally agree with what Andrew Hardie says. The only way we will become relevant is to be in a position where the parliament deals with issues on an individual basis rather than a system of formal coalitions.

The unpalatable truth is that there is probably more scope for cooperation with Labour as the Lib Dems won't have the numbers and the SNP constitution forbids them for working with the Tories even at a local government level.

Andrew's also right about the South. It may be that we see a re-birth of the Scottish Tories starting here. Much in the same way that the LD's flourished in the Highlands from the 1980's. I do think one of the benefits we have in the South (as opposed to other parts of the country) is a strong local goverment base. In the Borders in particular we have gone from 1 councillor in 1999 to 11 now.

This is clearly a press engineered story: if you look at what was actually said the tories simply said they would decide how they were going to vote on an issue by issue basis.

‘In the south of Scotland the real magic is happening.’

The trouble is that south west Scotland is not remotely representative of Scotland as a whole.—it’s got more sheep than electors and perhaps it has some wooly thinkers as well!

So is this what Annabel Goldie’s leadership of the Tory party in Scotland offers: an obsession with methadone prescriptions and ‘working constructively to keep Jack McConnell in power’

Clearly the architects of this strategy have scant regard to the two most recent by-election results in Scotland where an electorate, disenchanted with Labour, swung behind whatever party they reckoned could defeat them. There is a vast difference between the political climate now compared with 1999 or 2003 when Labour were still enjoying the poll ratings of the 97 General Election. There will clearly be only one beneficiary of this lunacy - the SNP!

In the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999 the SNP polled 29% in the constituency vote and 27% in the proportional vote, returning 35 seats. By 2003 it had fallen to 24% and 21%, delivering only 27 seats.

Labour's own recent "secret" polling, however, now puts the SNP at 29% and 26%, with the prospect of winning 37 seats - just below Labour, which would fall from 50 to 43 seats.

Labour would still be able to form an administration with the support of an impressive 28 Liberal Democrat MSPs - but the Liberal leader Nicol Stephen would be in a very strong bargaining position. After the results of 1999 and 2003, for the Lib Dems to keep Labour out of power required a rainbow coalition of at least three parties. Next year Nicol Stephen could be able to do it with only the SNP!

But here's the rub. For all Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been having a stormier marriage of late, they are both Unionist parties. Would Nicol Stephen do a deal that saw the arch egotist Salmond as First Minister? I think not. Stephen is no wimp like his predecessor Jim Wallace, but any deal with the SNP would be conditional on Salmond becoming first Minister, something Stephen would find impossible to swallow.
Stephen takes every opportunity to distance himself from the Executive decisions despite being guilty as charged. He knows all too well that he is culpable but denies it daily. Of course the LibDems will go into the election denying any deals with Labour, but will the Scots buy it? No, they will be found guilty by association.
The Scots are increasingly alive to tactical voting and with the advent of STV for Local Authority elections in May 2007, the process may well come of age. Few believe that an independent Scotland will ever come to pass and Salmond’s promised referendum would simply reject it. However a vote for the SNP in 2007 would offer the one thing Scots now clearly want: an end to Labour’s arrogance and incompetence
Just two weeks ago Goldie and Fraser in desperation, made overtures to Salmond only to be told to get lost and they have now handed him the electoral boost he craves.
First Scots Tory to be sacrificed by this leadership lunacy will be Alex Ferguson, (South West Scotland) one of only three FPP seats held by the Tories, who has a wafer thin majority of 99 over the SNP. Next will be the Tory hopeful Elizabeth Smith in Perth who needs only 728 additional votes to oust the SNP's Roseanna Cunningham.

In Stirling the talented Bob Dalrymple could well see the SNP deprive him of a victory over Labour’s Sylvia Jackson despite Labour’s private polling which highlights this as a probable Tory gain. In Glasgow Gavan the pugnacious Nicola Sturgeon would almost certainly oust Labour by attracting disaffected Tories, whilst in other key Labor SNP marginals - such as Kilmarnock and Loudon, Linlithgow and Aberdeen Central, Tories could be expected to vote tactically for the SNP to get Labour out.

Even more pronounced would be the effects of this policy on the Tory list vote, already about 3% less than the Constituency vote across Scotland. Abstentions or other preferences could well decimate the Tory vote.

So what should the Scottish Tory position have been a full year out from the election? ‘Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP have already started horse-trading. Before you've gone through the formality of voting for them, they're thinking of their own positioning rather than how best to serve you. We're having none of it. Instead of jockeying for junior ministerial posts or making shady agreements to prop up other parties, we'll be focusing our energy on explaining Scotland's problems, and our solutions. Instead of rearranging the furniture in the Holyrood village, we'll be advocating a change from politics as usual. Scotland can have an optimistic future, but is burdened by anaemic economic growth and sclerotic public services. We propose the following policies to address these problems -------

At a time when David Cameron offers dynamic leadership and real hope for the future, Scots Tories seem intent on a suicide pact with Labour--- perhaps we should all be queuing for methadone on prescription!

"We really need to re-assess what's going on in Scotland"
"The death of the Scottish Tories is greatly exaggerated. But it would be nice if our friends south orf the border would give us some help from time to time, we certainly do, Scottish tories helped at the cheadle by-election last year, i've yet to see English tories up for a Scottish by-election."
I think that we need to raise our game regarding campaign strategy and we need to do it now.
As someone has already mentioned our biggest problem is the fact that the "I won't vote tory" has been replaced by the perception that "I would consider voting tory" but it would be a wasted vote. Raising our profile with local campaigning and leafleting is the target, but many constituencies would need help especially in the rural area's outwith the central belt. A campaign in some area's to remind the libdem's that they are in a coalition with Labour at Holyrood would be helpful, they tend to get forgetful sometimes!

What is the point of voting Tory (or working to get Tories elected) in Scotland if all that will do is to keep the Evil Empire in power? Annabel Goldie is living up to her Social Democratic leanings. Shame on the Scots Tories for such bankrupt thinking! Set out your Conservative stall Ms Goldie and offer the Scottish electorate an alternative agenda from the Right.

"Just two weeks ago Goldie and Fraser in desperation, made overtures to Salmond only to be told to get lost and they have now handed him the electoral boost he craves."

Salmond rejected it yes, to the dismay of many SNP MSPs - guys like Kenny MacAskill (their Deputy Leader at Holyrood), Jim Mather, Linda Fabiani and a fair few others think that the anti-Tory lunacy has gone on for long enough, and we should be treated as they treat all the others.

The Nats have had a wee boost from a good result in Moray but Salmond isn't very popular amongst his SNP colleagues. At the moment they're all pulling in the same direction but only because an election is near. The knives will be out for big Lexo soon enough...

Ian G--

Sorry Ian -I've read the book and I have seen the movie, even tried to broker a deal for our Council in 99 - As long as Salmond leads the SNP there will be no discussions with Scottish Tories. Don't forget most of their best seats are Tory/ SNP marginals not Labour /SNP e.g. Perth, Angus, Moray, Banff, North Tayside. Kenny McAskill and Jim Mather may be more enlightened but the Nats are still a Marxist party led by an egotist.
In any event, my point is, a year out from election why are we talking about grubby deals,we should have something to say about what we have to offer.

"Tories could be expected to vote tactically for the SNP to get Labour out"

The fact that the SNP are offering tax cuts may help this along.

It's great to see a Scottish Tory thread on CHome. I wish I had some insight to offer (but why should this one be any different?). I reached the depths of despair in Ayrshire in 1987; it took me years of canvassing in east London and Essex to get over the shock I received whenever a non-Tory voter gave me a fair hearing on the doorstep, so it's really encouraging to hear that south-west Scotland is beginning to blossom as Tory ground once again. What's been so frustrating: Scots should be Tory to their core, if they would only get over whatever it is that gives them antibodies and thought about what really motivates them: a hugely powerful sense of national identity & patriotism; a shrewd approach to money (I'm not talking about Labour governments or Barnett-formula here); a belief in the right of everyone to get the best out of life via a broad-based/highly-streamed education system.

Huntairian - Have to agree with you re. the SNP, their is no prospect at all of co-operation with them.

I also agree that we need to sort out new policies for 2007 in the very near future. I would hope (and expect) to see proposals to reduce income tax - there is a great deal of scope within the Scottish Executive budget for this. We do need this kind of radical, eye-catching policy if we are to progress.

I'm not as pessismistic as you WRT the next election and I wish you and your colleagues the best of luck in Stirling. It would be good to see it true blue once again.

"What is the point of voting Tory (or working to get Tories elected) in Scotland if all that will do is to keep the Evil Empire in power?"

If the "Evil Empire" proposes policies we agree with then what's wrong with backing them? We shouldn't just oppose everything they do because we're an opposition party. That's why the Tories supported Blair's education reforms - they chimed with conservative principles.

This whole thread is a cogent argument against proportional representation and the endless coalition speculation and backstairs wheeler-dealing it produces.

This whole thread is a cogent argument against proportional representation and the endless coalition speculation and backstairs wheeler-dealing it produces.

Not disagreeing, but FPTP could produce the same situation, especially in Scotland with four main parties (and the Lib-dems quite strong in most aeras) compared with two and a half main parties in England.

Formal coalition is clearly not an option but if its the only way to get Tory measures through then I'd go for it.

Despite my grey hairs, I don't have as much political experience as many other people here. However as a general rule in this life: people whose lives are based on apparently incompatible principles seem to be able to form successful long-term relationships.

Possibly this is because they are prepared to find common ground on which to move towards mutually desired outcomes? Perhaps the fact they know where they disagree (and can therefore avoid getting into areas of contention) helps? Perhaps it is a genuine desire to put other peoples' interests first?

Whatever the reason, relationships based on mutual trust and respect seem more likely to achieve the desired outcomes.

Better dead than Red.

Any Conservative leader contemplating such a matchup should be frogmarched from the Party.

Posted by: Cllr Graham Smith | June 09, 2006 at 21:48

We are talking about Scottish Labour here ---the most venomous snakes you are ever likely to find in any jungle.
At a time when Labour is collapsing nationally and even the subsidy addicted Scots electorate are saying enough is enough, we should not be contemplating grubby deals, that share the spoils of office.
The Scottish electorate won't buy this nonsense. The two recent by- election results prove conclusively that voters can work out for themselves how to kill the snakes. If we don’t repent this blasphemy and quickly too we will be thrashed at the ballot box in May 2007.
I say again, we should be talking about Conservative solutions to Scotland’s problems , like cutting tax, reforming public services, devolving power down to local communities, putting more police on the street (on foot), cutting hospital waiting lists ( they are much longer here- Blair uses Scotland as an example of what’s wrong with the NHS ) creating real jobs not public sector ones.
The best place to keep reptiles is in a glass cage in the zoo, or better still stuffed and mounted in a museum of natural history.
Jack McConnell’s wife has just spent countless millions of Scottish Enterprise cash refurbishing the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The Scottish electorate is about to stuff wee Jack and many of his palls; the only deal we should be doing is one with Brigit to put them on display in Kelvingrove. (It used to have the best natural history collection in Scotland)

The Conservative Party could prove - perhaps - to be the wildcard of Scottish devolution politics.

The problem is this: the other parties (Lab, Lib Dem & SNP) spent the Tory years pandering to Scottish self pity, and indulging in childish politics where the Tory party were portrayed as Satan's envoys in Scotland. Having sold the Scottish people the proposition that anything bad that ever happened was the fault of the Tories (and probably the public’s childish gullibility was as important a factor here), it is not then easy for any of the aforementioned parties to even be shown considering an alliance of any kind.

The SNP are on record as saying “anybody bar the Tories” are potential coalition partners, and this might be the kind of stupidity which keeps them from power, for they have much common ground with the Tories. The SNP are socialists with all the usual flaws (groundless belief in the absolute good of state power, hostility to self help, instinct for high taxes and strong top down government). However Salmond is not a man who prefers fantasy to reality and in the end his nationalism will trump his socialism.

Salmond does recognise that “it’s the economy stupid”, he might emotionally feel kinship with the ideology of Tommy Sheridan, but the brain knows it’s a non starter. Unlike Sheridan Wee Eck is no fool. That is why he is keen on a Corporation Tax cut to encourage Irish style high economic growth (though he is still hostile to cutting personal taxes). It is the area of economic reform that the SNP can find common ground with the Tories.

What is in it for the Tories? Well they can stop being a total irrelevance for a start, which is all they are at the moment. The other factor is that when Scotland is performing economically it is much less susceptible to socialism. In 1955 Scotland voted Tory by an overall majority, something it has never given any party since. This was because the Scottish electorate associated growing post war prosperity with the Tories. But when Scotland went into economic decline it looked to the state for support, and in doing so gave its allegiance to socialism, and it will keep doing this until it is given a reason to transfer its allegiance elsewhere.

The Tories must therefore look to economic reform as its salvation, and if it does not do this, then I would like someone to tell me what Plan B is.

"If the "Evil Empire" proposes policies we agree with then what's wrong with backing them?"

Sorry? What policies are we exactly talking about? We are in business to propose reform and change not more of the same from Jack and his chums. Goldie and her pals at Holyrood should be coming up with policies to excite and entice the Scottish electorate to vote Conservative. Where is the imagination and courage of the Right to put up the case for a smaller state, less regulation, lower and simpler taxes, genuine public sector reform, the case for enterprise, etc. etc.

Instead what we have in effect are the weasel words of the faint hearted 'gone native' Tory MSP group who appear to be more interested in protecting their mortgage payments by keeping thmselves on board the gravy train than leading a Tory crusade for a different Scotland - one that is free and prosperous.

Since 1997 the Scottish Tories have had a lower profile than MI5. The party has issued virtually no policy is seen by the public as lazy and there has been no real leadership. Now it is seen as vote blue get red. Local associations have just disappeared, no regular newsletters or leaflets in fact it looks just like a central core sleeping quietly and taking the money. Why should anyone vote for a party which does nothing, has no policies and seems to want a coalition with anybody.

"Why should anyone vote for a party which does nothing, has no policies and seems to want a coalition with anybody."

It's worked well for the Liberal Democrats.

As someone involved in the press and covering Scotland since 1992 the Tories were on top of everything before 1997, good spokesmen, plenty of press releases, good off and on the record briefings. Gather first thing Goldie did as acting chairman after 97 election was to disband press spokesmen and then McLetchie disbanded the policy groups which had a lot of important people from commerce and industry. Since then virtually nothing. Apart from Monteith who is now out of party none of the MSPs ever gave much to the press. No policies never available although a redtop gathered a lot of evidence about how much time was spent in parliament. No wonder the party is going nowhere. In recent times Mary Scanlon stood in by-election and didn't have conservative on her material, Margaret Mitchell gets slated by First Minister when she stood up for fat cat lawyers, Annabelle Goldie proposes propping up minority Labour after trying to do a deal with SNP and now the latest bright move, deputy leader Fraser proposes shooting squirrels. What are they doing doesn't he realise that people love furry animals? Is this the mot important thing he can think of? Scottish Enterprise, free personal care, quangos growing every day and he wants to shoot squirrels and then they wonder why no votes. It is difficult to put together good pieces when this is what is coming out. Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, Greens even SSP (when they are not fighting amongst themselves like ferrets, is Fraser going to propose shooting ferrets)all flood journos with press releases, off and on the record briefings and ideas. Where are all the good spokesmen that they had in the 1990s and all the bright policy people? Probably put off with the lack of dynamic progress.

At the moment only 1 Tory MP comes from Scotland if we are to win a majority then we are going to need a lot more Tory MPs in Scotland. What happens if we have a majority in England and Wales but lose out on forming an administration when there are over 50 opposition MPs from Scotland who cannot influence their own transport, education, health etc but can support Labour in Westminster.

Looking at the A list only Dorothy Luckhurst's name appears to have a Scottish connection. 10% of Britain live in Scotland and only 1% make the A list. says something about Scottish Tories. Labour have how many Scots in cabinet.

I have followed with interest the posting on the diary entry Vote Blue, get Red? It has provoked an interesting debate, but as one of the initiators I thought it would be better to hold back from immediate response and allow the discussion to develop rather than interfere all the way through. Now, some forty posts later I think it is time I tried to reiterate why I believe the Scottish Tory Leadership has made a fatal error.

The easiest way to deal with the specific points in the postings and some of the implied arguments is to state them and knock them down (if I can). Here goes.

It is claimed that the policy of voting on an issue by issue basis does not mean or require propping up a minority Labour Government. Get real. Such comments by Annabel Goldie suggest that she is either in denial or dissembling.

What happens when there is a vote of no confidence in a minority Labour administration? Is it not “propping up Labour” but without admitting it?

What is a stability pact (that’s what the approach is being called), what is any type of pact but an agreement. What are its terms, do we get anything in advance out of it such as some policy deals, committee converships other morsels? Silence no detail, why, because the idea has not been thought through.

It is also claimed that the policy is not new. As Kenny Dalglish would say, “Maybe’s Yes, maybe’s naw”.

It is true, David McLetchie talked of such a pact in 1999 and 2003 and I remember supporting him on this issue, but crucially the context was entirely different. In 1999 and even 2003 Devolution was still new and we all accepted that it had to bed down. Labour was clearly the largest party and in both those elections would remain so. The SNP and Lib Dems together had no prospect of forming an administration so supporting a minority Labour government as a Tory opposition party made some sense – we offered to provide stability, a brake on Labour’s excesses, show our relevance and establish credibility. the chance never came because Labour chose coalition in preference to minority rule.

The terrain is now very different. Labour support is collapsing, but not coming to us - or even going to the SNP but landing on the Lib Dems. The SNP is benefiting from some Labour emigration but also from the collapse of the Trotskyist SSP. meanwhile Tory support is at best flat-lining. There’s no point looking at local council by-elections - they tell us nothing - if we had relied upon them in the last seven years we would be in government in Scotland. Similarly the Dunfermline (Westminster) and Moray (Holyrood) by-elections were disappointing if not positively embarrassing. Fourth in Dunfermline where under the (“hated”) Thatcher we regularly came second and in Moray (a seat we used to hold under Thatcher) we scraped a second after spending over £100K. A result no better than the general election last year.

No, the most reliable poll so far has been the Labour poll - that is now widely reported as putting Scottish Tories as slipping backwards in both percentage support – and numbers of MSPs from 18 to 15. The poll must be genuine enough; it has Labour seriously worried as it puts it falling while the SNP and Lib Dems are climbing in a position to form a coalition without any other parties.

Let me say this brings me no pleasure at all but I don’t find it surprising. The problem is that just when Scottish labour is being recognised as the problem and the electorate wants change the Conservatives have announced that they are against change. They are for preserving the status quo.

When people choose to vote for the SNP and Lib Dems in increasing numbers it is because those parties are agents for change in so many ways - just as David Cameron is catching the zeitgeist for change. I fully expect the Tory support to now go into terminal decline. The Vote Blue Get Red idea has been implanted in voters’ minds and just in case it might be forgotten we can expect 48 sheet hoardings, adverts and leaflets reminding the public. Sadly Annabel Goldie has had her Gerald Ratner moment.

Why did this policy come about? From what I know through the Tory Group internally the policy didn’t just emerge but was fed to the Sunday media lobby lunch on Tuesday 30th May. A number of members of the press have since confirmed this to me. Maybe the press got the wrong end of the stick, maybe, as some bloggers think, the media has over-egged it, presented the wrong angle. Don’t you believe it. After the Sunday’s reported the Labour bailout the Scottish Tory Leadership was privately telling staff the coverage was excellent. Why? Because the aim was not to launch the policy with any serious intent, but worse, simply to make the headlines.

Rather than make Scottish Tories relevant it will make them more irrelevant than before.

The motivation was the lack of coverage the Tories had been receiving in the last few months and the worry that they were off the Radar; which they were.

A number of posts pointed to existing arrangements in local Councils where Tories were working with Labour to keep out the Lib Dems. That might be appropriate, every situation will have its own historical context, however, I rather doubt that BEFORE the election the local Tories were telling the electorate that this was a planned outcome rather than a reluctant one after not receiving enough support. Again, let me mention Labour is the discredited party, propping it up - and I use that phrase intentionally for that’s what supporting Labour as a minority administration in a vote of no confidence means - taints the Scottish Conservative Party rather than liberates it.

Finally, the one difference in Scotland from English Councils is the reality of the SNP, the second largest party and one which has both low-tax market led members as well as republican communists. This party colours the whole scene in a way that say, UKIP, does not in England. The main effect the SNP has on the Scottish Tory party is to (unfairly) construct the perception that the party is anti-Scottish. Leaving the Tory Party free to work with the SNP but ruling out independence would have gone some way to dispel that perception, allowing candidates to say that they would put Scotland first, once elected, in dealing with potential partners.

A better strategy would have been to actually develop some policies so that Goldie had a bargaining position for after the elections. In a PR system this is even more important because the one thing you know is that you will have to negotiate - at the moment Goldie has no policies to bargain with or compromise on.

Unbelievably the lessons of the past have not been learned: to sell your message requires the policies that you choose to sell to be available for at least two years in advance (even if they are initially only themes, or problems to be solved). Scotland’s electoral cycle is different from David Cameron’s - it’s next year not two or more away -and Goldie is already too late in her policy work - leaving any announcements until the end of this year with only six months to sell the proposition.

For instance you want to sell a 3p cut in the Scottish income tax? Where’s the moral case to justify it in sceptical, socialist Scotland? Where’s the financial costing to show you can do it? Such work shouldn’t just be conjured up - it requires hard work - and I don’t see it being done.

Instead the one thing the electorate are going to hear is Vote Blue, Get Red. Goldie put it out there, the genie is out of the bottle and sadly, there’s no going back for her or those who sail with her.

Of course one could be complacent and think that we’re the largest party etc, etc, but the largest party is dying with its membership. When I surveyed it in 1990 it was over 40,000. Now it is less than 15,000. Where have they gone? Not renewed their subs? Well, yes, but that’s because most of them are dead. My survey found 65% were over 65. Fifteen years on I can see that being despite new members of all ages the party is fading away. Other parties never had as many members - but they had activists. Witness the activity at Scottish by-elections and this phenomenon can be seen on the streets. And may I just say that the last thing the Scottish Party needs is English people canvassing at by-elections. Just as a glut of young English candidates was unhelpful in the 1987 general election by suggesting there were not enough people able to stand. (I remember John Bercow not knowing what or where Ravenscraig Steelworks was, in his seat)-

A further point needs to be borne in mind, the Scottish Tories are outside the consensus. Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP are all essentially socialist or at the very least collectivist parties. They believe in the large omnipotent state and their policies express this. They are as bad as each other. Given that with PR parties have to find an accommodation with each other and given the (unlikely) circumstance that the Tories are king makers the question is who to make the deal with - for full blown coalition or minority government.

Surely the answer is to fight the election on Tory policies and then see what happens. If we should have a preference it should be against the party the public is deserting (probably Labour) and in favour of the one that offers most opportunity in expanding our agenda (probably the SNP). Salmond is the stumbling block for the SNP but that’s more his problem than ours - it will all depend on just how bad he wants power. I could say more about what we should offer but that would take another 1700 words. Maybe another time.

Scottish Tories are indeed outside the consensus of Scottish politics as Brian Monteith asserts. People are prepared to move their vote between the left wing parties as their mood takes them. Not, because they are necessarily left wing themselves but because the image of the Scottish Tory sadly appeals to a small and ageing part of the electorate. It is already generally accepted that Scottish voters are more left wing than the UK electorate, but the difference is only slight – it is not enough to explain the poor showing of the Scottish Tories relative to the position in the south.

The Scottish Tories have a natural advantage in being the only right of centre party. The Party should seize that advantage - a cosy up with Labour is not the solution. There are many manual workers and low paid office clerks that deserve the choice of a party that will represent their views. For example they don’t want the patronising and failing welfare state that the left wing consensus so admires – being taxed on one hand on only half the minimum wage and perhaps getting a tax credit back with the other is unpopular with many. Or a welfare system than rewards parasites and punishes those that try.

The Tories should also challenge the legal establishment. Judges and lawyers need to earn our respect. It is not a right.

The party must be prepared to offer robust polices that do not pander to the vested interests of the chattering classes – after all they already have several parties to choose from.

Brian makes only one mistake in his posting. Unfortuanely the Scottish Tories (MSPs) are part of the left of centre consensus in Scotland. After a very promising first couple of years when the group provided real opposition to Labour, with David McLetchie regarded as the leader of the opposition (not the SNP), they all went native.

The current policy vacuum is most worrying. Given that the Scottish Tories will not be in a position to form a government in Scotland, they have more opportunity to be radical than David Cameron, who may need to take a more moderate stance.

The SNP will end up being taken for a ride by the Lib Dems, just like Labour has been. The SNP might not like to admit it, but they are chosing the wrong coalition partners. Whatever the left wing SNP members might like to think, the average SNP voter (not activist) is just to the right of centre.

The biggest disappointment is that the Scottish Party seems to think that short-term superficial measures are going to bring about a reversal in their fortunes. Hence the stupid letters in the two recent by-elections: first the one in Cameron's name which claimed he now agreed with the Lib Dems on Iraq; then the naive attempt to use Independent councillors as endorsement in Moray, a solid SNP constituency.

We were told, post-1997, that the Party recognised how detached it had become from mainstream voters in real communities in Scotland and that there would be a long-term startegy of re-engagement. Local Government and people on the ground in difficult areas were supposed to be the key. Well, assuming the Party was ever serious about this, the long-haul has now been replaced with the quick-fix. And that hasn't worked, nor will it. There is no political pendulum between left and right in Scotland, so the Tories won't benefit from Labour's demise as they will down south. Pretty candidates can be the icing on the cake for a solid campaign, but take away the cake and it's just sickly. You won't see these new A-listers for dust when the going gets really tough.

There's a hundred possible reasons why the Tories at Holyrood have made so little impact at the ballot box, but the most likely one is that every MSP has come to believe that their own seat is not dependent on the success of the whole Party. List MSPs are only interested in their ranking (which is determined by a small number of sleeping members, not clued-up activists) and the handful of constituncy MSPs are relying on a personal local vote to keep their very slim majorities intact. Expanding the group or making bold statements of principle or ideology don't get a look in.

I'm afraid the Party is having an Emperor's New Cloths moment. The propaganda that has been trotted out for years isn't working anymore and the Party is looking rather exposed.

where do we go from here or is it all still down the slope. Brian Monteith sums it up.

when are the party going to start producing decent media releases on subjects that might find some agreement with the electorate

Brian Monteith is right the Tory party in Scotland has to draw a line in the sand. This is a time for an El Alemein moment. That means new leadership both in the parliament and in the party. We can't rewrite the past and can't get rid of vote blue get red but what we can do is show that all that has been removed. New thoughts, new policies, get on with environmental issues as DC is doing down south, it is echoing with the electorate. State that we go into 2007 with no pacts except the pact with the Scottish electorate to serve them all in the best way we can. Policies that are good for all and making the point that the New Scottish Tories are going to work for the people and that means if they are not in the position to form a majority government, as no party is going to be, then we shall support others or oppose others to ensure the best deal for the public. Remember in 2009/10 England and Wales needs Scottish MPs to win at Westminster, it is our duty to start by taking as much of the Scottish vote for ourselves.

We also need a better media team with a press release a day on differing subjects co-ordinated by a central team who make sure that there is something for every branch of the media including the London based papers. We also need more co-operation with the councils. As Brian Monteith MSP pointed out the other parties have activists, with all these retired people with time to spare we should have activists by the hundred. Silver surfers into Silver canvassers. Labour managed to shake off its old image in the 90s we can do the same. A party is more than its MSPs no matter how slow they are. Time to take the party to the people.
The press are always ready to print good stories.

It is refreshing and encouraging to see that this thread is still live and running after almost six days. It demonstrates the power of Ch.com and it just shows how willing Scottish activists are to put their head above the parapet, in the full and certain knowledge that the lead weighted handbag may strike them down at any moment.
Having met with many party members over the last 10 days since the Vote Blue get Red story first broke and its sequel on Monday- vote Blue Shoot Grey save Red, two points emerge with crystal clarity: on the first, members and activists want no talk of grubby deals with any party of the left, rather they want to hear us talking about Conservative solutions to Scotland’s problems : and on the second once the laughter and incredulity subsides, simple disbelief that at a time when Scotland problems are manifest, we fill the vacuum created by the lack of serious discussion on policy with such frivolity.
At a meeting tonight I did detect genuine anger in many to whom I spoke, and an acute awareness that of our seventeen present MSP’s, fourteen owe their very existence to list. Gone native is the allegation libeled at many, and it seems to me that there is a growing view amongst the jurists that judgement day approaches for those who preach blasphemy or worse, simply have nothing to say or lead to give.
Increasingly we look south and find Tories with a spring in their step; a leadership full of enthusiasm for the task ahead and the appetite for battles yet to come. For them fresh ideas, fresh faces, youth and vigor whereas in Scotland the talk is of grubby deals, not policy, rodents not robust opposition, an ability to crack china teapots at fifty paces.
I make no apology for saying it one more time: we are less than twelve months from the SP elections. We have young and able candidates crying out for policy leads now, not for Christmas. The reason we are seen as irrelevant by the press as many on this thread have said is that we have had nothing to say.
Let’s start talking about Conservative solutions to Scotland’s problems, and then the media will listen. We could begin by telling the diminutive McConnell that Scots like Adam Smith, Stevenson, Bell, Fleming and hundreds more, had far greater aspirations for their homeland than being the ‘best wee country in the world’. Scots for generations have led the world; as Conservatives we should be preaching a gospel of smaller state, lower tax, fiscal responsibility an end to the dependency culture, corporate innovation, and putting Scotland back where it belongs; at the forefront of Britain’s economy.

The sad fact is that nobody is listening at Holyrood or at SCCO. The question is how do you influence a Party that is being run by a self perpetuating clique. There is so little democracy in the Scottish Party that there's no scope for challenge or change. What are the chances that there will be any upsets in the SP ranking votes when there's a rule that prevents active campaigning in the style of a primary election?

Supporting Labour will lose us votes and members. Oh yes it will.
The Scottish Tory MSPs have delivered no message of comfort to our core vote to suggest that they realise what that core vote is thinking, and how worried it is that it seems to be no longer represented.
I am constantly asked what our stance on immigration is for example. What is it?
Members are joining other parties such as the New Party.
Tories of my own acquaintance intend to vote BNP.
We are simply letting our existing supporters down while failing to attract new supporters.
Also, why don't our MSPs say "we told you so" now that the tragic results and costs of devolution are evident, and then put forward proposals to make devolution work.
This would attract widespread support, as Scotland is definitely worse off post devolution for everybody.
We campaigned against it all before 1999 and now seem to have sold out and just gone along with the whole ghastly gravy train.
We are known for trivia. Dog fouling. And now a bounty on grey squirrels. Meanwhile nobody can get a dentist.
For goodness sake where is our sense of priorities?

I have followed the 'vote blue get red' debate with considerable interest, and believe this is simply symptomatic of a more widespread concern by the majority of Scottish Conservatives that we are just not making any impact in Scottish politics.
We opposed devolution, but ironically obtained a respectable electoral presence in the new parliament by way of PR, which we also opposed. Now we espouse the virtues of devolution, saying that it is here to stay and we must make it work. But the polls remain stubbornly unimpressed. The media attention is all on the socialists - that is the other Scottish parties in case there should be any confusion. So what do we do? We come up with gimmicks to garner a little passing interest by the media in an otherwise dull pre-election period.
Should we not be identifying what is wrong with devolution and putting forward solutions? Yes, devolution is here to stay, but no-one said the 1998 Scotland Act was set in stone.
There are too many MPs in Scotland, as there are too many MSPs. We oppose PR for very sound reasons, so why not advocate abolishing the List system and all that goes with it? Or is that just taking things a little too far, considering there are a large number of Conservative MSPs with mortgages to pay?! Scotland gets an unjustifiably large chunk of money each year from the Treasury, which it then spends in the most carefree manner imaginable, with very little result. As a result, Scots have inevitably come to expect government largesse as a matter of right. We all know the result in the form of poorly delivered public services, high levels of benefit receipt and an economy in freefall. The only logical and Conservative solution is surely to propose that Scotland raises what it spends?
These are just a taste of the sort of Conservative solutions we might propose to address real Scottish problems. Yes they are radical, but they are a great deal more likely to make a difference to the lives of real Scots people. And they might just get a little positive media attention into the bargain!

I understand that the rules for the forthcoming list 'rankings' vote for the SP candidates are now out and guess what? There's one big rule: no campaigning allowed. Nothing more than an A4 sheet of paper on each candidate is to be circulated to the members.

This is pathetic. Did you read what I wrote a few days ago about a self-perpetuating clique? This is what it means in practise. No internal debate and no open election campaign to rank the selected SP candidates!

'Pathetic' doesn't even begin to cover it.

This is the silence of grave and sadly for all true believing Conservatives in Scotland that is exactly where we are heading!

How ironic is it that in the week that the London party chiefs announced an 'open' primary to chose the Conservative candidate for the Mayoral election that the Scots party decided to keep it as hard as possible for younger members to even have a look-in on the SP rankings.

Nothing is more guaranteed to return the tired old band of time-servers that make up the current Scottish Tory MSP group. But then again, that's the whole idea. Stay on the gravy train. Don't frighten the horses!

We need more people who have personality and political conviction. More campaigners, more people who have a policy idea in their heads, more people who can articulate Conservativism and sell it on to the people; more practical Conservative policies to excite and entice the Scottish electorate.

To get any of this we need a good dose of party democracy along with openess and transparency.

We need a new team at Holyrood. 15 of the 17 who are there now should have the good grace to move on. They have had 8 years to make an impact and they have consistently punched well beneath their weight. They have made not even the slightest of dents on the political bumper. They've had their chance. "Come on, get aff!"

Perhaps we have past the point of no return for the Scottish Conservative Party. I hope not. We have almost certainly past the point of no return for some of those in charge of the Party's organisation in Scotland. If you've no new ideas, please go and let those who have something to give get on with it. If you've something to say, you'd better start saying it.

But keeping the 'old pals act' going is doing precious little to secure a Conservative future in Scotland.

Flying a Tory Blue Flag

You are on a blog site so what meaning does "no campaiging" have?. Get a Scotscon Reform site up - put in details of the candidates for the list and ask for comment to better inform the membership in making their decisions. Kepp it separate from the candidates and it isn't campaigning is it?

I agree that the Scots Conservatives need to do something quickly before they are further sidelined by the SNP and LibDems.


I think that you have a brilliant idea there.

But how crazy is it that our party has set up a system for ranking candidates on a party regional list that doesn't allow candidates to engage the membership on a 'full on' basis? But I do like the idea of a Reform SCP website!

So 15 out of 17 should go in the words of the TV game higher higher. The press ignore the Tories because there is nothing, no story, no policies no ideas. Oh and forget the New Party, it is fully funded by Robert Durward the millionaire through his cloburn quarry (see electoral commision website). According to 'Popular Politics' he has spent a fortune over £1m and a lot on his other pet projects and got nowhere. Rumoured to have stood a few candidates at the english council elections but no results. All it did at 2005 was put out a few press releases which we all ignored although the scotsman had a piece saying he was going to stand lots of candidates in 2007. The moment of glory was in 2003 when as the SPA two Tory MSPs defected to them. It was slickly done one at a time to spread the story and over the Tory launch. The best bit was the cartoon in Holyrood magazine. The policies were madness something about the public voting on everything. Though in fairness their idea of reducing numbers at Holyrood and abolishing MPs had some good points. Their policies now are much worse than anything the Tories have. They got nowhere but their press conferences were well attended with plenty food and drink. Since then the rumour in the press is that all the team who did that have drifted away but obviously not back to the Tories since they were a real slick media team, press releases, quotes and interviews. Don't vote BNP either, if you saw what most papers have on them then you would be putting a bounty on them not squirrels. Vote for a good honest candidate, even an independent in the vote and vote for the best independent in the list. There is nothing to be gained by putting any Tories back in at the moment and I used to vote Tory. The party needs a good cleanout. It is not just young candidates it needs there are a few grey guerrillas out there and some really good women who would do better than the present mob. We need new ideas and policies and lower tax, since the internet appeared we are all getting our expenses cut so I have a personal interest.

What are we going to do, expose the mob in the press or stay quiet and watch the same lot get back and then have a coalition with Labour. We are probably going to be repeating all this at the next election. It is less than a year to this election and we have nothing, if we put in an effort we ust return the same lot.

There are only 16 Tory MSPs. Not 17.

18 to start, and now less Mary Scanlon who resigned to fight some hopeless case in Banff or wherever, and less Brian Monteith, who is an independent. That makes 16.

The Ranking of the List info from David Mundell is so badly drafted as to be incomprehensible.

Comments please.

Anyway, talk of the Tories propping up Labour are irrelevant as the Liberal Democrats are going to be the largest party come next May!
They hope, surely a collapse in the Conservative support actually larger than is being suggested is the only way they could achieve such a thing and it's more likely to be between Labour and the SNP.

There is a base Tory vote in Scotland and support is running about there at the moment. The real fluctuation is between all the Lefty parties. Tories sit around 16% not enough to get them anywhere but enough to get the odd FPTP seat where their support is traditional and a few list seats. The losses mentioned are their own fault, Monteith has written a lot and shows he is thinking about policy since he left the party, he was the only one to vote against the Lib Dem trainset in the Borders. In at £160m and going to cost £320m and Scanlon had campaign where not mentioning the Tories on her posters made things worse. No policies to put to the electorate no votes.

Mary Scanlon was replaced by next on list so still 17. Monteith is independent Tory because he has not stood down can't be replaced by next on list.
Also not heard of any Tories voting BNP even the most right wing Tories think very little of its policies. Has been upsurge in UKIP down here but gather not much up in Scotland. The New Party are not getting anywhere, amateur policies which are whinge not substance and would not stand up to a real debate. What are the other parties they are all joining, most I know are not joining anything else just leaving Tories.

Dear Pressfriend : The point I was trying to make is that while the left goes banging on about immigrants rights, gay rights, criminals rights and the rights of just about evrybody who behaves in an anti-social manner for some reason or another; absolutely nobody gives vent to any kind of centre right common sense view.
Those who play the game, and who are concerned about their rights, are being ignored. Many of these people are / were Tory voters.
In desperation they feel they have to make a gesture, which is why they will vote for people like the BNP. They don't like them, and they know what negative attitudes they have, but they are making a statement.
One of the people I know who feels this way is a retired school mistress who feels that society is being socially engineered to favour those who cause trouble and provide them with endless accommodations denied to her. And she is correct. The Tories have to say something to re-assure her and many more who think the same. There is a huge right-wing leaning in this country that we ignore for fear appearing non PC. This is why we lose elections.
Malcolm Parkin

Interesting debate.

I hope some of you pitch in in other threads too, I think one of the best things about ConHome is that it engages members from all over the UK and not just London.

I've published something along the lines of what you've been talking about in the Seats and Candidates blog, re: regional list selection.

Well down here things are improving. I spend a lot of my time on features so at the moment am visiting our politicians and sitting in aga filled houses with bookshelves carefully arranged with political bios and tables with copies of the right magazine. What you can do up there is another problem. Voting for minority parties is always a waste of time especially when their policies are either useless or nasty. Voting for them is not going to get rid of the useless mob running the Tories. Stand up in the press, get involved in a local association form up with the others on this website. At the election stand out against them and say that although you are a Tory you wouldn't vote for them. The BNP or any other party is not going to represent your views. The Tory party is the only party of free thinkers on the right. Take it back it has around 1/6 of vote with this mob doing nothing. Get some backing from a company or some other source of money and take them on. There are a lot of frustrated people up there. I see the letters that don't get published and you are right there is a big right wing and the Tories at Holyrood are ignoring them. Laziness is the problem. Labour is always going to support its own and its supporters have to remain in the ghetto to support them. Look at Edinburghsucks.com to see how Labour behave at council level. The Tories don't fight them there even join in some of the jollies. The Tory party has been around for ever and it need good people to run it.

What a breath of fresh air to read the comments from 'pressfriend'. For years the true Conservatives in Scotland have been banging on about applying Conservative principles to policy development here in Scotland. And what has been the response - deafening silence!
David McLetchie was a good performer but he was never going to push the policy envelope. Now we have Anabel Goldie and what has she done - nothing! We are barely 10 months away from the ballot papers dropping into the ballot boxes and we are still developing policy! Where is the debate on the real issues which are going to dominate Scottish politics for years to come? Why are Scottish Conservatives not leading the constitutional and fiscal debates? Conservatives do not and have never supported PR, so why do we not advocate getting rid of the appalling List System of electing MSPs? We know there are too many Scottish MPs, so why do we not get into that debate?
No, the Scottish Conservative leadership appears to be more interested in getting elected next May than standing up for principles and democracy, and thereby showing a little political integrity.
Just read the papers these last few days - smell the coffee! The English are waking up - Barnett Formula, Scottish MPs voting for English laws, Scottish MPs running England, should Brown actually be allowed to become PM of Britain?
The genie is well and trully out of the bottle. This debate is going to run and run and no-one has a clue where it's going to end. Make no mistake, the very Union is threatened.
And all our Scottish Conservative leadership can talk about is how they might vote for Labour post May 2007!
I rest my case.

well what are you all going to do about it. Time for the activists to storm the bastille and use your local democracy. Start up you associations, get rid of the present elected officebearers. Attend conferences and ask questions, brief the press, start taking the party back to the people. It might be too late for 2007 but you have nearly five years to get it right. From what I can gather wandering around Westminster the Tories down here are not happy but won't say so, they can't do anything about Scotland without being pilloried for 'English' interference. By the way although down here am qualified to play for Scotland. We need you to win MPs in 2009 and MSPs in 2011. Start now there are plenty of good tories out there. Get yourself a Wallace or a Bruce and drive out the mediocrity and then Labour.

Not one Tory MP or MSP has pointed out the stupidity of Labour's idea that immigration is the answer to the state pension crisis.
This loony plan has all the sense of the chain letter or the multi level marketing scheme, as once you have started you clearly need an infinite number of immigrants to keep the thing going, as the early immigrants become a pension liability that can only be solved by another input of immigrants and so on forever.
Only commentators in the Conservative Press have had the savvy to spot this innate flaw.
In financial terms this is known as a Ponzi scheme, named after a conman who paid early investors returns directly from the income provided by the investments of subsequent investors.
How wonderfully socialist!

Malcolm Parkin
Malcolm Parkin

Nothing here since my last on August 06. Anthing wrong or is nothing happening worthy of comment?

Vote Blue get Red?

Isn't that the official Tory motto since "Dave" took over?

I see there has been a lot of emphasis here on the allegedly huge value of the views of Johnnie-come-lately shiny new Tories.

Well as of this morning I am the Conservative Party's very newest member, so I expect due and fawning respect from all our resident Cameroons.

Pip! Pip!

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