Nice couple of pieces from two Massies, Allan in the case of the headline, and Alex below… Both provide acute background to the Tories’ Scottish dilemma. First Allan writing in the Scotsman, to give a contemporary construct to that historical headline:
Today’s Jacobites, wanting to turn the clock back, are those who would repeal the Scotland Act and abolish the Scottish Parliament. There are such neo-Jacobites in the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (and a number in the Scottish Labour Party too), but they are politically irrelevant. The Scottish Parliament is here to stay, just as the Hanoverians were.
So, reluctantly, the Scottish Tories have accommodated themselves to the new regime, just as after 1714 English Tories accepted the first two Georges; and much good it has done them. Support has continued to ebb away. As parliamentary leader, David McLetchie offered an Edinburgh lawyer’s good sense, and his successor, Annabel Goldie, offered charm, wit and a combative spirit; all in vain.
And in practical terms:
Murdo Fraser has, however, changed the way the game is played. The party is heading for the knacker’s yard, he says. So, if he wins, he will dissolve it and start again – or at least change its name. He will break away from the Conservative Party down south – even though any Fraserite elected to Westminster will take the Tory whip – and he will create a distinctive centre-right Scottish Party, whose relationship to the London party will be like that of the Bavarian CSU to the CDU in the federal German parliament.
Alex’s analysis goes deeper into the malaise affecting both major unionist parties north of the border:
It is hard to think of a successful right-of-centre party in Europe that is not in some way identified as the patriotic party. The Scottish Tories have lost the ability to make that claim or be identified with the national interest. Until this is remedied there can be no secure recovery. Those Tories who claim Fraser is “appeasing” the SNP have it precisely backwards: it is the Keep Calm and Plod Along brigade that abets nationalism. Times have changed and even Tories must accept that.
Instead, however, the party has spent thirty years saying No to everything at a time when Scotland has been minded to say Yes. That must change. Much of the time – no matter how worthy their small-bore policies may have been – the Scottish Tories have viewed everything through constitutional glasses and concluded that anything that pleases the SNP or advances a sense of distinctiveness should be treated with suspicion. As such the party has rarely had anything to say and it has been easy, if sometimes unfair, to portray the Tories as the anti-Scottish party.
And he concludes:
In the end, what matters more? The party or the future of right-of-centre politics in Scotland? Or, to put it another way, who dares think the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party, as presently constituted, is in any fit place to best lead or serve the interests of right-of-centre politics? Quite. It has had its chance and it has failed and now the national interest must be put above the interests of a mere political party.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty