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 578.

    576. Colin2108
    "An independent Scotland will not want an England based party."

    No just a party that calls itself something different although it was Scottish both before and after. That makes sense, eh?

    One good thing about Scots Independence is that England can alter its time by two hours. I am reliably informed that I suffer dark evenings because of Scottish farmers - oh the inconvenience!

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    @400.Sidney Lotterby
    "Put that way its hard to comprehend why most Tories are anti EU but pro union." Indeed. My view is that they fear the EU because it exposes the UK for what it is (a multi-national European superstate), and because, in the UK the English Conservatives are in charge and can call all the shots. In the EU they have to have that power with others, and they do not like it

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    Scottish independence is a when, not an if. The Scottish Tories know his and they are positioning themselves for it - a smart move. An independent Scotland will not want an England based party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 575.

    @Total Mass Retain

    "not as compartmentalised as many on here think"

    Quite true. They recently analysed the DNA of many people living around Tyneside and discovered that most were not of Viking descent as had been optimistically assumed but were, in fact, of Anglo-Saxon descent. Interestingly the place with the highest 'invader input' was York, a well-known Viking settlement site.

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    England and Scotland joined in the Act of Union in 1707 when Queen Anne was the monarch. "

    And Queen Anne was the last of the "Stuart" dynasty. In actual fact she had more English blood in her than any monarch since and (apart from her sister) than any monarch since Richard III. The Tudors were Welsh and the Stuarts Scottish. The Plantagenates (apart from the last few) French.

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    The UK was made up of England + Wales - a conquered kingdom, Ireland - a seperate island and Scotland a seprate kingdom."

    Though back in the middle of the first millenium parts of Scotland and Ireland were part of the same (Irish) kingdom. Around the same time, Anglo Saxons were settling in central Scotland. This history of these islands is not as compartmentalised as many on here think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    @565. MabionGlyndwr

    "It seems the Tories will do anything to keep a grip on it's limited hold in Scotland. Change it's name, become more Scottish, How patronising can you get. Here's an apt name for the Tories: The English National Party"

    Now that IS a fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.


    LOL you have a deal as long as I still get access to black puddings :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    556. 1974andallthat

    You seem to be deliberately missing the point.

    English matters: All UK constituency MPs have the right to vote and did vote out the EMA, Coach Concessions, and voted in tuition fees.

    Scottish/Welsh/Northern Irish matters: English MPs have no vote.

    If we continue like this, the English will be voting for independence, not the Scots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    @438 - However what does the events of 300/400 years ago have to do with the Tories dreaming up a new name?

    Someone brought it up & I don't like to see history being rewritten - whoever happens to be doing the rewriting.
    They could call themselves the Jacobite party, a name they have some (limited) historical claim to - that might bag them a few history distorting SNP supporters :)

  • Comment number 568.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 566.

    You are right, unfortunately. Both sides entrenched and speaking without common language. I would stand by my belief that all will suffer from a seperation in was neither can see.

    Take hope that as a HYS this is not a true display of our nations lol :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    It seems the Tories will do anything to keep a grip on it's limited hold in Scotland. Change it's name, become more Scottish, How patronising can you get. Here's an apt name for the Tories: The English National Party. why? Because that's what they've always been , will ever be and will only have limited support in Scotland, Wales by die hard unionists & SE: England Tories who rule the UK by Proxy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    @546. 1974andallthat

    This argument is getting boring. The Scottish executive have their own budget now for transport, housing, education etc.

    As for the £30bn continental rail link, where is it's final destination in the UK? Scotland.

    By the time the Edinburgh Tram project is finished it will cost little short of £800million, so your future connection to Paris looks cheap in comparison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    As there's no geographic or linguistic barrier, the two populations are mixing fast. There won't be much difference between them in another 300 years. Scotland will be more English than Scots and more than half of the descendants of today's Scots will live elsewhere. Mixed ancestry will be the norm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    If England was independent of Scotland, it would relieve us of their financial support and the disproportionate number and power of Scottish MPs in our government.

    We can both compete with our own strengths and assets and work together for our mutual benefit.

    We also desperately need a more widely representative voting system with a citizen's duty to vote. Too few grow too rich from too many.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    Do they think our heads button up the back? People in Scotland don't vote for the Tories because they don't like their policies and what they've done. Changing the party name isn't going to fool us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    @545 KenSpare - 'forces' towns. I don't doubt for a second you have good friends who are Scottish and like most Scots I'm sure he would be as offended as anyone at you experiencing any form of abuse based on your nationality. I dare say you could quote examples of him being verbally abused as a sheep botherer, sweaty sock or other such whilst in other parts of the country.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    Are you refering to "English people" or "non Scottish people" in the UK?


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