Sunday, 28 November 2010
The Sanderson review of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party was published last week. Another investigation into why the Scottish Tories didn't win more seats at the last general election and only managed to cling onto the one they already have.
The bluntness of the review suggests that the Tory peer and his colleagues understand the depth of the hole the party is in and the major changes needed to haul the organisation into the 21st century. It also notes that 'many people outside the party believe that Scotland needs a strong centre-right political force'. I too agree with that statement because it would create a healthier balance in the Scottish political scene. The SNP, Labour and Libdems are all fighting for the centre-left ground and any serious probing of government is non-existent.
While many people may concede that a centre-right party is needed, the trouble for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party is that people don't think it should be the Tory party.
The review undermines the current leader, Annabel Goldie (pictured), by calling for a leadership contest after next May's Holyrood elections when they will decide who should be handed control over the range of power bases that current exists. It rejects proposals to change the party's name or logo, concluding the real problem was the 'failure to convey clearly and consistently what it believes in and stands for'. I don't think that's the problem at all. The problem for the Tories is that people don't like what they stand for and believe in.
No matter how much they try to break through into the modern Scottish psyche, the damage was done years ago. For me, the final nail in the coffin for the Tories in Scotland was watching Michael Forsyth, the then Scottish secretary, solemnly walking up the Royal Mile behind a piece of stone, which was resting on a velvet cushion and borne by a glass topped limousine. To top the ludicrous event, Forsyth later, in Edinburgh Castle, gave a speech in which he implied that if all Scots weren't grateful for his goodwill gesture of returning the Stone of Destiny, then hell mend them.
Now the Tory party want a 'distinctly Scottish leader' who must have the power to appoint the Scottish party chairman, a job currently in the gift of UK party leader David Cameron. But, despite arguing that the party needs to put Holyrood front and centre of its daily business, the review says the leader need not be an MSP. How they intend to have a leader who may be unable to represent the party within the Chamber is beyond me.
Also recommended in the review is a radical overhaul of its candidate selection, financing, membership recruitment, policy formation and relations with the UK party.
This is all too little too late I feel but my suggestion would be: disband the present Tories, build another centre-right party which has no affiliation to any UK party and drop their determination to be a unionist party. Many tories vote SNP in this part of the world, possibly because we have an excellent MSP but also because they do believe in Scotland taking charge of her own affairs. Any tories who feel they cannot support an independence party can move to Labour or the LibDems.
The Tory brand is toxic in Scotland and no amount of tinkering will make them less so. Better to cut and run then rebuild with policies more akin to Scotland's culture. There have been other attempts by former Tories disillusioned by the party to create a new home, but with little success. The Scottish Democratic Alliance does not intend to select candidates for any election until Scotland is independent. The Tories could do worse than look at their vision for Scotland.