Monday, 11 October 2010

What has the Conservative Party got to lose from making the Scottish Party independent? List below.

1 MP
17 MSPs
143 Councillors
~400,000 Votes*
All Hope

In short, everything we have in Scotland. It isn't an awful lot, currently. But its better than nothing. Before I explain why, I'd like to quickly examine our present position and compare it to that of the Liberal Democrats.

They aren't undergoing any handwringing existential crisis north of the border. But why not? Our votes in the general election were pretty close, we outpolled them in the Scottish elections and they only have 23 more local councillors than we do. If we're doomed, surely they're circling the drain? Of course they're not, and for one reason: their vote is distributed in such a way that despite not winning many more votes than the Conservatives they won eleven times as many parliamentary seats. The Conservative brand is not so much utterly toxic as it appeals to a geographically disadvantageous electorate. FPTP screws us in Scotland. We need to deal with it and overcome it, rather than looking at a map of the 2010 General Election and assuming that nobody in Scotland voted for us.

Additionally, there are prospects for a long term recovery in Scotland, see my post-election examination of possible Conservative seats.

The main point of this post, however, is to explain why I am opposed in principle to those who think that the Conservative Party should make the Scottish party independent as a supposed 'cure' to the utter toxicity of the party north of the border. There are a couple of reasons for this.

1) The Conservative Party should not be above playing a meaningful role as a third party.
We're not used to it, and it probably isn't all that fun. But the Conservative Party should be making the best out of the hand the electorate deals it in Scotland to put our case to the people and play our role in Scottish politics. How many aspirant parties would kill for the assets listed at the top of this post that some would have us abandon?

2) If the diagnosis is accurate, then the cure isn't worth it for the Conservatives.
In short, if the Conservative brand is so poisonous that we can never be a significant force in Scottish politics again, then no party that functions as our proxy can do so either. The only way an independent Scottish Conservative party could shed whatever poison is attached to it would be by ceasing to be the Scottish Conservative party. It would have to work against the Conservative Party (sticking it to those evil English tories, no doubt) in order to define itself as independent. If it were loyal, there'd be no point splitting it off. We're better off with some representation in Scotland than creating a second UUP-equivalent that might win more votes but is not the Conservative & Unionist Party, leaving us unrepresented north of the border.

3) The Conservatives should not be making big donations of credibility to Alex Salmond.
This one is pretty obvious. We went into Northern Ireland because the pro-union principles of our party led us to believe that it was not right that any citizens of the United Kingdom should have no right to vote for a governing party in a general election. Furthermore, we aspired (and continue to aspire) to the normalisation of that province's politics with those of the mainland. Northern Ireland's 'separateness' and the inability of mainland politics to function there has long been a boon to nationalists. Why on earth would we want to give the impression that Scotland was the same? To allow Alex Salmond to boast that the SNP had so transformed Scotland's political landscape that the foremost party of the union could no longer campaign there? It runs completely counter to the interests of our party and our country.

So it leaves the Conservatives unrepresented in Scotland whilst making us look hubristic and weak and undermines the Union to boot.

*I couldn't find the numbers anywhere, but the Conservatives, SNP and Liberal Democrats were all within less than 100,000 votes of each other.

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