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.


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

    Comment number 438.

    Scotland, through sheer bloody incompetence, managed to nearly bankrupt itself trying to establish a foothold colony called Darien .. actually welcomed the union as the alternative was financial and economic ruin!
    Yes Scotland badly mismanaged Darien but it was not as straightforward as that
    & even thats not the whole story

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    The sad truth is that you have it in a nutshell KenSpare! On a similar note I never experienced religious bigotry till I went to Glasgow. It appears to be completely acceptable to be a religious bigot or a racist with anti-English comments in everyday conversation in Scotland, even in apparently polite conversation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    @KenSpare - "Even their so called national anthem is one verse about one battle." - and of course God Save The Queen has no references to crushing rebellious Scots................

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    Interesting idea but it will take more than a name change for the populus of Scotland to wipe the slate clean. Tory woes in Scotland have a long history, including (but not limited to) the Poll Tax and squandered oil money, which only started to come in during Thatcher's era. The fact that Michael Gove is "relaxed" shows a lack of concern about their decline. SE England we're not, after all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    @KenSpare - Complete nonsense, I expect you came to Scotland with an attitude and expected to find racism and thats what you will have found. I have never experienced any genuine mistreatment of anyone from south of the border. I work for an English firm and on the many occasions colleagues travel north they have nothing but pleasant experiences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    A great idea! and while they are at it how about sorting out the totally unfair situation of Scottish MPs being allowed to vote on English issues but not the other way around due to the existence of the Scottish Parliament. It would make no difference to the Tories as they only have one Scottish MP but it would put an end to what is in effect discrimination against the English.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.


    Sorry, I did not explain myself welll, in a Union it is respect given willingly between partners. 382.Daz comment though hinted at English superiority and so my question was more that if Scots were not there to blame for all ills then what of the remaining nations - those that are not England.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    392. Mayna

    "you forgot to mention the M74 extension, under budget and ahead of schedule"

    This M74? On time? Under budget?

    "opens tomorrow, three years late and nearly three times over budget, experts fear the M74 extension"

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    413 Mayna & 409 Sande
    Exactly Mayna! This sadly goes both ways and with personal experience it would appear to come more easily to sections of Scottish society than it does to the English. Sande whether you like it or not there are vast swaths of your country that defines itself negatively in terms of anti-Englishness. My problem is how your government exploits this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.


    Just out of curiosity, could ay Scottish people let me know their opinion, should the English be able to have a vote on seperating England from Scotland?

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    @RobPro - very obliging of you, thank you sir, shall we doff our cap as we leave....

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    #412. Guy Fox
    "Far better to say that you're rebranding the word "wrong" (such that it would include past inaccuracies) or that statements were actually accurate, within a 100% margin of error."
    Now I know you're a politition - or ought to be!

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    'Wrong, ownership of sea oilfields is governed by international agreement'.

    The 200 mile territorial waters limit variation is subject to a treaty between the UK and Norway. Brent is clearly Norwegian TWs; the UK and Norway continue to exist. Where does Scotland fit in? The UK doesn't vanish because Scotland leaves. The UK can always veto Scots EU membership till it cooperates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    411. Sidney Lotterby.
    "....The difference is in how one goes about it."
    So, that's L. Sharp told then is it?
    I know, let's all gang up on L. Sharp!
    Try taking onboard what the person said, not what you think they meant. As someone familiar with the problems of N.Ireland/Eire you are being more than a little disingenuous. They certainly had problems (& us) but the cause was...... look it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    We know what Conservative values are - stealing from the taxpayer to give the banker, keeping the poor down and bombing poor countries to steal their natural resources.

    May I nominate Tony Blair as it's first leader!

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Shouldn't "The Tories", in Scotland read "The Tory"??

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    I'm all for stepping towards Scottish Independence if it means less of my tax money going into a foreign benfits system.

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 420.

    Good... let Scotland break away completely... Fed up of their constant winging... Run your own country as far as i'm concerned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    I lived up there for a while, racism is rampant against the English. They are still fighting a 300 year old war. Even their so called national anthem is one verse about one battle.
    Let them go. Who wants them anyway. They have been a drain on the rest of the U.K's taxpayers for years.


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