Disbanding the Scottish Conservatives?

When Annabel Goldie announced her resignation as Scottish Conservative Leader after the disappointing results from the May elections we never foresaw what could follow. Conservatives and Scotland have never really gelled and it has always been a weak point in the Tory strategy but Murdo Fraser’s new plans are causing controversy none were expecting. As a Scottish Conservative MSP no-one really thought he would want to disband the Scottish Conservatives but that is what he has announced he will do if he gains the leadership.

He accurately points out that there are many central-right thinkers among the Scottish but that this does not translate to Conservative votes; he believes that is due to having no sense of Scottish identity in the region and the Conservatives being viewed as too English. As Deputy Leader of the Scottish Conservatives he was tipped as the frontrunner of the leadership race ahead of Jackson Carlaw MSP and Ruth Davidson MSP (who has not yet formally announced her intentions). How this announcement will affect his chances we cannot yet tell.

Deputy Leader of the Scottish Conservatives
Murdo Fraser: The Man to Split the Party?

The practicalities of this disbanding, however, are uncertain. He said there would remain a strong partnership with the Conservative Party but could also contest against them and would refuse to be under London control. Whilst he claims there are those high up in the Conservative party who are not against his ideas, I cannot see many being willing to relinquish the small bit of influence they do currently have in Scotland for what many see as a mere re-branding exercise. Whilst Prime Minister Cameron only has one MP in Scotland, if Mr Fraser wins the election then this may be reduced to zero with the probability of this not changing in the near future. On top of this, no name has been discussed and the naming of this so-called “new party” will be vital in deciding how much support the idea receives from the traditional Conservatives.

Finances could also cause an issue and although Mr Fraser says his idea has sparked interest from financial backers of the “past, present and future”, Focus on Scotland does not seem so keen. Focus on Scotland has given significant amounts of money to the Scottish Conservatives, estimated at £1m in the last three years but says they will not financially aid a breakaway party and will continue their alliance with the true Conservative Party. This is a huge blow to Mr. Fraser’s theory as he has to weigh the balance of whether losing the Conservative name tag is worth also losing financial backing.

One point that has been raised is whether this is actually forward thinking on Mr Fraser’s behalf due to the future independence referendum. The SNP have promised to hold this referendum and whilst the majority of Conservatives do not want Scotland to become separate could this be Mr Fraser’s prediction? Could he be preparing for an independent Scotland with a more individualised identity that the Conservative party just cannot meet? Either way, the name Murdo Fraser will be linked with controversy and uncertainty for some time to come.


Posted on September 6, 2011, in Comment, Conservative Party, Party Politics, Scotland and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Really interesting article, I don’t see how it can be done, but will be facinated to see how this unfolds! I look forward to follow up articles.

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