The latest developments don’t mean the end of Conservatism in Scotland. But it is indicative of 1) the kind of fuzzy thinking that at times pervades some very well intentioned innovations within the Cameron kitchen cabinet; and 2) the dearth of committed Scots within the modern Conservative party.
And it comes within a year of the failure of the UCU-NF project.
I’m told over and over that David Cameron is committed to the Union, and to outreach to the outer nations of the UK. I’ve no doubt that some people within the Conservative party certainly are. Or that the PM thinks it is important. But most of those true believers are English, or Scots have lived in England for so long they now come across as being culturally embedded in the Westminster/English milieu.
Now their feel for the Scottish popular pulse is negligible. And it has allowed their own party base often to project all manner of inferior qualities upon the Scots almost as a nation already external to the Union (which it is not quite yet). Even the polemic of the subvention was a hand too readily overplayed when a Scot was British PM (the last one ever, perhaps?) because the Conservatives had already begun playing the hand that was more obviously politically crucial to them: the exclusively English one.
Iain Martin may be right when he tweets that quitting the field, or rather being seen to quit the political field in Scotland is Christmas come early for the SNP:
There is no easy way back for the Conservatives outside England. As noted here before, the idea of a broken Kingdom arises from English resentment at the Scots and it is often powerfully articulated by Conservatives both in politics and in the press.
Yet, by contrast in Wales there is a Tory revival, of sorts. That may be because England is not so remote from at least half the country, where transport links eastwards often exert a more powerful influence upon local communities than the road to Cardiff. Accordingly, the cultural and political tensions with the ‘mother country’ have never been as powerful as that which obtains with the Scots, despite the equally divisive industrial politics of the 1980s.