Scottish Tory leadership favourite 'to split party'

 

MSP Murdo Fraser: "This is a return to the position we had pre-1965"

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The frontrunner for leader of the Scottish Conservatives plans to split from the UK party if he wins the leadership election next month.

The MSP Murdo Fraser says the Conservatives carry too much baggage in Scotland and claims a new centre-right party would attract more voters.

The party would sit with the Tories in the Commons but have its own policies.

Mr Fraser said David Cameron was aware and the idea had the support of several senior Conservatives at Westminster.

He told the BBC: "What we have to do is get many more people elected from Scottish constituencies to support David Cameron and a future UK Conservative government and the best way to do that is to create a new progressive centre-right with a Scottish identity."

He added: "I think that will be much more attractive to many people in Scotland who share our values."

Leadership pitch

The Conservatives have failed to revive their fortunes in Scotland since the 1997 general election, which saw them lose all 11 of their Westminster seats.

Analysis

It seems that the future shape of the Conservative party in Britain will be decided by its membership in Scotland.

They will soon vote for a new leader of the party in Scotland.

If they choose Murdo Fraser they could find themselves in a breakaway party.

He wants the Scottish Tories to become a separate party with a new name, independent from, but allied to, David Cameron's Conservatives.

That might mean the Conservative brand would only continue to exist in England and Wales.

But the Tory leadership at Westminster appears to be relaxed about this possibility.

Cabinet minister, Michael Gove, has said: "devolution means that you should allow the party in Scotland to determine its own destiny".

At last year's election, they only managed to retain one MP, David Mundell in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.

Mr Fraser says the party has been in continual decline in Scotland since the 1960s and the best option was to create a new party.

His plans prompted Glasgow MSP Ruth Davidson to confirm she will contest the leadership and defend the present Scottish party.

She said: "I am proud to be a Scottish Conservative and Unionist.

"This is a destabilising distraction that will be welcomed by no one more than Alex Salmond.

"I've got the confidence to speak to Scots about the issues that really matter to them."

Ms Davidson, who was newly elected to the Scottish Parliament in May, is expected to make a formal announcement about her bid on Monday.

Mr Fraser can expect further opposition with the former Secretary of State for Scotland, Lord Forsyth, calling his plan a "ludicrous idea" which amounts to raising the white flag in the face of opposition from the SNP.

The MSP said his campaign slogan in the Scottish Conservatives leadership race was a "new party for Scotland".

"This is the central plank of my leadership pitch," he said.

"And what I'll be saying effectively is there is a lot of interest in centre-right values amongst people in Scotland but they don't vote for the Conservative Party."

The former Tory Scottish Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, described Mr Fraser's plans as "healthy" and "refreshing" and said his ideas should be given "serious consideration".

He said: "What is very, very healthy is that Murdo Fraser is not just raising this after he has been elected. He is saying if you want me as your leader this is the kind of way in which I wish to lead the centre-right cause in Scotland.

"He is saying this is not about one individual, this is an opportunity for the people who are Conservatives in Scotland to decide what is the future of the union and of centre-right politics.

"He is offering a very refreshing new start."

'Political revival'

Scotland's only Conservative MP at Westminster, David Mundell, said he welcomed debate and discussion but would "take a very great deal of convincing" that Mr Fraser's ideas would help the party.

He said: "I think fundamentally changing the party name is a rather simplistic approach to the issues that we face.

"It is much more fundamental than that.

"It is about having a whole package of things that appeal to the electorate from policies, to the work that we do on the ground, to our approach in government."

Asked about the plan, UK Education Secretary Michael Gove - who was born and brought up in Scotland - said the Scottish Conservatives should be allowed to "choose their own destiny".

"It is a decision for the Scottish Conservative Party what its future should be," he told BBC One's Andrew Marr programme.

He denied the idea was merely an attempt at "rebranding" but a sign of a "revival, political and intellectually" of the centre-right in Scotland.

Jackson Carlaw, a West of Scotland list MSP, launched his campaign to be the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives on Friday.

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 622.

    The problem with democracy is that the population want always want to vote for a party that will govern in a manner that meets their best interests, The problem with the Conservatives is that they are a party who will always govern in a manner that meets their interests. They need to ditch their antiquated one trick competition fits all ideology, like Introducing clinical competition into the NHS.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 591.

    mr fraser has got it partially right,abolish the scottish conservitive and unionist party form a center right pro independence party and forget the unionist nonsense and he might get some where, I have voted snp in every election local or national for the last 33 years , not because I have any belief in their economic madness but because I want to live as a free scot in a free scotland

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 567.

    i believe that changing the identity of a party is merely a superficial flaw within Mr Fraser's fundamental intentions; this is due to the fact that he is underestimating the Scottish voting ideology. Indeed, the conservatives are unpopular, however, merely changing the logo and perusing the same goals is going to have a weak impact on the constituency. Its about policies, not posters...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 421.

    With the two main parties in the Scottish Parliament both coming from the centre left of the political spectrum, the Scottish tories need to stay focused on being a resposable third party. There may not be much demand for Conservatism in Scotland, but the Scottish people will always need the option of voting for an alternative to the socialist policies being put forward by Labour and the SNP.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 13.

    It may be quite radical but I think its right for Scotland to have political parties which seek a Scottish identity in their policies rather than Westminster doctorine. Not that I would vote for conservative values but I think this is a smart move. I also think the Union has to reforn too to reflect the people of Scotland's right to self rule if it is desired at anytime by the people of Scotland.

 
 

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