Monday, 17 May 2010

What Next for Scotland?

The Scottish Tory party is a mess. Please feel free to send TB thoughts on what next, what beyond a much needed change of leader, can be done. A Caledonian conspirator writes:

As you will probably know (or are at least aware of the arguments for), Scotland has historically and traditionally been a conservative country. My countrymen’s recent dogged and, frankly, frustrating attempts to blame Thatcher for the countries woes are now unfounded. Our inability to take responsibility for ourselves, and corresponding blind loyalty to Labour, has done us more damage in the last couple of decades than Lady T ever did.

The meaning of “the union” has always been influx. The Scots and English have always had a different law, education and health systems and both countries have maintained their own separate cultures – hence the reason that a union was required (otherwise it’d just be one country). But then you know all this…

How do we wrestle Scotland back from the grip of a destructive, corrupt and entrenched Labour party who do nothing but take their vote in Scotland for granted?

I would suggest that the Tories need to acknowledge the new constitutional reality in the UK and revise their interpretation of ‘the union’. (One of the features, for me at least, of the recent leaders debates was that the BBC clearly had not. I’m not suggesting the SNP should have got an equal footing, the constitutional anomalies would have been as good as impossible to address, but there was little recognition of this when the debates were being agreed between the broadcasters (I could be wrong here)).

So, basically, I think the Scottish Tories should publically acknowledge what many of them do in private. The Scots should be granted full political and fiscal autonomy. This is completely consistent with conservatism (de-centralisation / individual responsibility / etc) and would create competition between the two countries (which, again, a key feature of conservatism). This would probably need a complete separation between the Scots Tories and the Westminster based party to assure the Scots that connections to the ‘nasty party’ have been severed but an ideological partnership could be retained.

We could then redefine the union as a cultural and social one. Free labour movement, both countries could leave the EU (they would have to – and I’d argue for Scotland to stay out and join EFTA), etc, etc…

As you rightly claim, an effective right of centre party is completely absent from Scotland. This is not only damaging (in terms of political arguments in Scotland being almost arbitrary) but it is inconsistent with the political make up of the Scots psyche.

Sure, there’d be problems and tension but to pretend that the current arrangement is doing anything other than sour the relations between the two countries is deluded.

Unionism is British nationalism. We should all have the courage to be nationalistic about our individual countries, rather than some strange ‘union’ that exists between them. Nationalism is a good thing as long as it does not lead one to think their nation is superior to other nations.

Consistent with this, I believe, my nationalism is all about individual responsibility and recognising Scotland’s failings as much as it is about promoting its strength. When I argue for an independent Scotland I do very much from a pro-England, and pro-English, perspective. Two great countries which are locked in a tense and unconstructive relationship.

When Hamilton and Button came first and second driving for McLaren in a recent Grand Prix it was billed as a British victory. Nonsense, it was an English one, and I was delighted for them. If I was English I would have wanted this to have been described as an English victory. I certainly didn’t feel the Scots should have been recognised, even implicitly.
TB's unionist credentials have softened since he moved to London. Regarding the ideas pitched here? Full fiscal yes but keeping the head of state, defence and FCO control and he might just be on to something... 



"Full fiscal yes but keeping the head of state, defence and FCO control and he might just be on to something... "

So, essentially making Scotland a 'protectorate' of England? Hrm...

Faceless Bureaucrat

TB, the 'Union' is dead and in reality has been for some time, but why not finish the job properly?

In addition to full Independence for Scotland, allow a Referendum in Northern Ireland on the 6 Counties reuniting with the Republic of Ireland to create a united island of Ireland and a single Nation State of the Irish People?

Unionism has been fading in NI for years now and even the so-called 'Unionist' Parties cannot be relied on to support the Consrvatives in a Westminster vote.

A Referendum in Wales would also, I suspect, produce a vote for Independence.

Creating a new alliance of 4 fully independent Nation States within a trading bloc (which is the sort of arrangement we thought we were getting with the EU) would defuse the generations of animosity that have existed between us because of England's slavish devotion to protecting the Union.

Political Parties in the newly independent Nation States would be of no consern to an English Parliament and Labour's built-in voting bloc would disappear at a stroke. Who knows, the Scots might even start voting Tory again, but at least they could feel comfortable that this time, they really were 'Scottish' Tories...


Think This

Very much like the ideas put forward. Have always envisioned an American Federal model for the UK myself. Westminister gets Fed gov powers over defence, foreign policy etc and England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales all get their own proper Parliaments with power over pretty much everything else.

Tartan Tory said...

You can not blame the failure of a political parties fortunes on the electorate.
The problem with the Scottish Tory Party is people like this, who subscribe to defeatism.
Let me give you an example, the constituency where I live (dunfermline and west fife) is not a Conservative stronghold, the number of votes we polled at this election was in the region of 800 more than the by-election of 2006. Although our vote share was lower because of a higher turnout, this says a lot about our campaign. The parties in the local area suffered a tactical squeeze, and the SNP performed really badly, however we managed to bolster our support.
How did we do this ? We didn't piss our pants when we canvassed in a council estate, we were brave and put the Conservative message to people, we were visible on the high street, we fought tooth and nail in an unwinnable seat.The lack of drive in the Scottish Tory Party is what brings it down, too many people making assumptions about how people will vote. We went into hardcore Labour heartlands in the area and the majority of people didnt know who they would be voting for til polling day.We missed out on these people.
Furthermore, the Scottish Tory Party is appealing to people who are dead, or are pretty much on their way there. The leaflets we were given to deliver were "The choice for pensioners". What nonsense is this ? How are we going to bring on board a decent amount of support if all we are doing is targeting people who we perceive to be our supporters.
Furthermore, is it not just outstanding that those down South when they don't win up here suddenly become less unionist, where is the principles? We are unionists, first and foremost before anyhting else.
The Scottish Tory Party needs to be brave, and not subscribe itself to the sort of defeatism that this article has shown, it needs to grow a pair of balls and say: Vote for us, we are the party of the people of Scotland.
To make the Scottish Tory Party independent is furthermore nonsense, the MSP's are useless, they couldn't formulate a manifesto if they had 20 years. What the Scottish Tory Party needs to do is get decent candidates into Holyrood, instead of putting them up for seats in Westminster which they eventually lose and putting them off politics forever.
The last thing we need now is our English counterparts ditching us because we didn't win any more seats. So much for mutual support. Backstabbing is rife within the Tory Party once more.

Anonymous said...

Well for starters the Scots never voted Tory, they voted Scottish unionist party a separate but closely linked party.

And secondly the Conservative party made considerable gains in the Scottish vote but sadly this did not translate in to seats.

much as though I would like to tell my fellow Scots that the self perceived sense of victimhood and economic catastrophe is no more greater than the effects of Lady T's policies in the North East.

It is morbidly hard and my fellow Countrymen are very particular to constructive criticism of their national psyche.

As Kevin Myers the great Irish old fart who speaks his mind without any undue criticism says .... "The Scots have an obsession with rolling on their backs like beetles and kicking pathetically to make a point"....

Apathetic Scot said...

People have been regurgitating the ideas of your Scottish conspirator for years but the unreconstructed wankers in the Scottish Tories will never buy it.

'Tory' will always been a four letter word in Scotland so the best thing the Scottish Conservatives can do is dissolve themselves and allow a new sensible, moderate and patriotic Scottish centre-right party to emerge (with new candidates, organisation and ideas).

mav said...

I don't think there is a magic wand that can be waved here. Its going to take time, energy and hard work. The problem we have ad is that most of the MSPs we put in in 99, who are now our public face, were people who should have been councillors. I'm not denigrating counciloors, though it sounds like it. But in Scotland, the pattern often is that you work hard, then when you hit your fifties, you're financially comfortable, the kids have grown up, you become a councillor on the local council. Except in 99, they became MSP's. The other parties elected would be MP's. And it shows. The first step on the road will be a younger generation of MSP's to articulate our policies in a different way. Brownlee, Fraser, Lamont are ok, but none have 'magic', and badly need help.

Foregone Conclusion

"Scotland has historically and traditionally been a conservative country."

If this is true, they had a puzzling unwillingness to vote for Conservative MPs. The only elections since 1868, the start of the quasi-popular franchise, where the Conservatives held a majority of seats in Scotland were those of 1900, 1924, 1931 and 1935. Since the Second World War, the Tories have been easily beaten by the Labour Party on every occasion, and their downward trend started far before the advent of Mrs. T, although she probably helped to accelerate it. I blame the breakup of the Orange vote and the loss of the power of the rural landlords myself.

Of course, one could argue that the Lib Dems and SNP are inherently conservative parties. I think, however, that that was not the point...


Well, this is the kind of thing I founded my blog to fight.

The Conservative Party should not equate its problems in Scotland with problems with the Union: the SNP won only six seats. The Union is not dead, and it has certainly not been 'dead for some time'. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are unionist parties, although the union is so not-under-threat in Scotland that 'unionism' is not a label that needs to be commonly banded about. As for Wales, whoever claimed that a referendum there would lead to independence is a fantasist, pure and simple.

We're the Conservative & Unionist Party: unionism is one of our fundamental principles. This venting of post-election Little-Englandism is at best distasteful. What solutions does it offer? An abandonment of a fundamental principle of the party, not to mention an entire state of the Union or even the very existence of the United Kingdom?

The Scots did used to vote Conservative, although the high-points were under the Unionist Party in the 1950s. Scotland swung to the Conservatives in 1992, when we moved into second place. They can vote Conservative again.

If you're an English Democrat, join them. If you're a quitter, quit. The Conservative & Unionist party was not built or maintained by quitting when things got tough.

My own Unionist-oriented Conservative blog can be found here:


As for 'Unionism is British Nationalism': that is a rather clumsy analysis that fails to appreciate the different motivations and shades of unionism that exist. I, for example, am a unionist and a ferocious anti-nationalist. Unionism can be(although it not always) a principle of its own.

Anas Hassan

I have undertaken in recent times an extended analysis of the demise of the Scottish Conservative party - quite simply though, Annabel Goldie has done some good but I'm afraid she must move over now for a new leader and the party need to undergo a revolution.


In addition to full Independence for Scotland, allow a Referendum in Northern Ireland on the 6 Counties reuniting with the Republic of Ireland to create a united island of Ireland and a single Nation State of the Irish People?

And what if the people of N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales don't vote the way you command?

FYI, the SNP won about 20%, Plaid Cymru just over 10% in the last election...does that sound like a groundswell for separation to you?

Unionism has been fading in NI for years now and even the so-called 'Unionist' Parties cannot be relied on to support the Consrvatives in a Westminster vote.

The Union if not the Unionist parties is still supported by a clear majority in Northern Ireland; Irish nationalism polled less (as a percentage)and as a total number of voters than it did ten years ago...again does that sound like a groundswell for separation to you?

Regarding the letter-writer, get off your knees, stop whining and start fighting.


Contrary to what your correspondent suggests, I have never heard my fellow Scottish Tories advocate political separation of Scotland and England in private or anywhere else for that matter. Oddly enough, it only seems to be Scottish nationalists who believe that the future of the Scottish Conservatives lies in some sort of rejection of their Britishness. Funny, that. Expecting the most stridently unionist and patriotic party in Scotland to suddenly take up some sort of separatist banner really does show a certain hint of desperation. What next? The Libertarian Party grooming Tommy Sheridan?

'Individual responsibility' should naturally involve a rejection of the collectivist politics of nationalism; supporting decentralisation does not involve the complete destruction of central government. I also support the point made in other comments: Unionism is certainly not just British nationalism, and even if it was - why reject British nationalism for Scottish nationalism? The very idea is absurd.

Scottish nationalists often talk about a cultural and social union after independence, yet it does not stop them from chipping away constantly at any symbols of British identity or culture. It is a cheap trick.

Now, by all means give the Scottish Parliament more fiscal autonomy - power without responsibility is the prerogative of the harlot and all that. But for God's sake, not 'full' fiscal autonomy with some sort of grant going to Westminster from Holyrood: that simply replaces one financially unaccountable parliament in Scotland with another. To turn to the rest of the Calman Report: different motorway speed limits and drink drive limits? Different airgun legislation? These ideas are utterly silly.

Duncan said...

There's very little room left for the Conservatives in Scotland as

(a) the LibDems present themselves as a party of economic liberalism and fiscal conservatism (or at least, fiscal competence).

(b) the SNP and to a lesser extent Labour are all appealing to social conservative voters.

(c) the SNP and Labour have tried to set themselves up as the parties of big business in Scotland.

(d) there is a pervasive feeling of 'Tories cannot win here' everywhere so people vote for the lesser of two evils according to whether they are a social or an economic conservative (so SNP or LibDem respectively).

(e) Unionism is not a unique selling point as both LibDems and Labour are also staunchly unionist parties even when it somewhat clashes with party ideology (I'm a LibDem who feels we ought to support a referendum taking place, even if we campaign for a no vote).

Regarding the above, I don't think the union is dead at all. There's no reason for full independence when England remains our natural partner. Instead I suspect the future may lie in a federal Britain with more devolution for Scotland and especially England but with a unified executive. The one fly in the ointment there might be Europe, with England opposed and Scotland overwhelmingly in favour of closer integration, a fortiori as much English Eurosceptic sentiment is driven by concerns over legal sovereignty which of course concerns a legal system seperate from that in Scotland anyway.

Anonymous said...

Here a little tip from a scot,
Give scotland full control over all matters except defence and the monarchy but include other constitional matter why you may say...well most scots feel scottish with some british identity but they don't feel like the masters of their own destiny and so by giving scots this they would feel empowered.
Let me say the union is dead because as soon as irish reunification happens which is faster than you think as sinn fein got more votes than any other party but first by the post stopped them getting the most seats. Likewise in scotland the SNP came second but got less seat because of the voting system.
Can you see scotland wanting a union why england and wales NO!!! most unionists in Scotland and Northern Ireland do not care about England and Wales they want ties across the sea and that was why unionism was big in scotland in the 1950's.

Anonymous said...

I must Disagree with my good friend Duncan when he says
"i don't think the union is dead at all. There's no reason for full independence when England remains our natural partner. Instead I suspect the future may lie in a federal Britain with more devolution for Scotland and especially England but with a unified executive."
Trust Me people in scotland think we are closer to Ireland with 36% of people surveyed that England 28%
that is the unique selling point of the union.Scots are interested in unity with the 6 counties not england.
Here is the trap though
If the Conservatives vote down a independence referendum it will e seen as anti-scottish yet if they don't most scots what status quo which I believe would be better for the tories than the current situation. As they would be seen as empowering the scottish people.

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