A Tory revival would be good for Scotland

A rebalancing of Scottish politics requires a rejuvenated Tory Party, says JOHN McTERNAN


Labour should welcome Murdo Fraser’s pledge to wind up the Scottish Conservatives if he’s elected leader in the current leadership ballot. There is a need for a strong Tory Party in Scottish politics, just as there is for a Liberal Democrat revival and a rejuvenated Scottish Labour Party.

Politics has an ecology, and the disappearance of one political force often feeds another. Labour’s rise last century was fuelled by the decline of the Liberals. In similar fashion, for a period the decline of the Scottish Tories helped all other parties – Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP all picked up seats that had traditionally been Tory ones. Within living memory the Tories held seats in Glasgow (including Cathcart, the core of the seat now held by LabourHame’s own Tom Harris.)

In the end, though, it has been the SNP who have gained most from the catastrophic decline of the Conservatives in Scotland. As definitional abuse the phrase “Tartan Tories” no longer works against the SNP. But it speaks to a truth – the SNP’s unassailable heartlands, in Perthshire and Morayshire, were once a Tory fastness. And Tories are the only people who can dislodge them – but they have been too weak for too long for that to be a realistic option. With such a safe haven as their heartland the SNP are able to become Tartan Socialists, Tartan Greens and Tartan Liberal Democrats. Hence their sweeping the board in May.

There’s a traditional saying: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: A lot of people start at different edges and eat towards the centre. In similar way the SNP will only lose their dominance over Scottish politics if they are challenged by a revival of all the other parties. So, a revival of the Scottish Tories is necessary.

Does a radical break with the past guarantee success for the pProgressives, or the Democrats, or whatever Murdo Fraser will call his party? Of course not.

But not changing would guarantee continued defeat. At the very least the Scottish Tories are being talked about, and when was the last time that happened?

John McTernan was head of policy to First Minister Henry McLeish, a senior advisor to Tony Blair and special advisor to Jim Murphy MP when he was Secretary of State for Scotland. He now writes for the Telegraph and the Scotsman. Follow John on Twitter at @johnmcternan

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9 thoughts on “A Tory revival would be good for Scotland

  1. Labour should do this as well – drawa clear line between the Scottish Party and the UK party.

  2. I enjoy reading this blog when its tone is thoughtful, rather than tribalistic. But the logic of John’s argument is that a right-wing revival would be good for Scottish politics. More people arguing for cuts and privatisation sounds to me like a step backwards, not forwards. I was working for STV at the count in Perth when John Swinney beat Bill Walker for North Tayside. Neither is my idea of a socialist, but I would rather have Swinney.

  3. Murdo MacLeod has it part right. The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party needs to be disbanded. Now get your coat Murdo! 🙂

    It is breed into the Scottish psyche that the Tories are greedy evil people hell bent on destroying Scotland whenever they are given the opportunity. Their policies, values and motives are not something the majority of Scots aspire to see taking hold in this nation. That’s not going to be an easy one to change. I can already see future generation being scared witless around the camp fire by the spooky Tory stories.

  4. Vote Labour to keep the Tories out – no more it seems.

    But then it was always a nonsense – what ‘Scottish’ Labour should have said over the years was ‘vote Scottish Labour so that we can pressurise the UK government, Tory, Labour or even a coalition in Scotland’s interests.’

  5. ‘A Tory revival would be good for Scotland’

    don’t quite agree with this or perhaps McTernan has worded it wrong.

    A reformed christian democrat party that was split from the tories might be a good thing if it kept the SNP and to a lesser extent Labour on their toes.

    But I can see the point that Murdo Fraser’s idea working would possibly be more likely to drain support from the SNP than Labour.

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