Blog: Questions posed by Scots Tory ties to Westminster

Credit: PA

Once upon a time in a political galaxy that now seems several light years away it was suggested the Scottish Conservatives abolish themselves.

The idea was not to leave the political field to the remaining centre-left, or just plain left, parties in Scotland.

Rather, some Scottish Tories thought the centre-right case in Scotland would forever be hampered by being tied to the UK Conservatives. So they would set up their own party.

It would be independent of what would become the rest of the UK entity but a sister party, with a relationship similar to that between the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the rest of Germany.

The election of Ruth Davidson as Scottish Tory leader in 2011 (see what I mean about political light years away) put paid to the idea but it has lingered in the background ever since.

Put simply, as long as the Scottish Tories are part of the UK party, and that party is in power in Westminster, they will keep being asked about policies and politicians in Whitehall.

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross drinks a pint during a visit to Edinburgh, Scotland. Credit: PA

And those questions can often be difficult to answer. Davidson got on with, and broadly agreed with, David Cameron, so it was not a problem initially. 

That changed when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. They differed on a number of issues, most notably clashing in a TV debate on Brexit. It did not make for smooth cross-Border internal party relations.

And that has been true for Ms Davidson's successors, first Jackson Carlaw and now Douglas Ross. 

I sat down with Ross this week for the latest in our series of Representing Border leader interviews ahead of the Holyrood election. 

It was a wide-ranging interview but, among many other things, I asked him about Boris Johnson's alleged "bodies piled high" remarks and, three times, whether he thought the Prime Minister was a man of integrity and honour.

The Scottish Tory leader told me firmly that in this election he was the leader, his name was on a ballot paper, and his party had constructed their manifesto independent of the UK party.

All of that is true. And there have been areas where the Scottish party has taken a different position from their UK counterparts. Yet the problem remains.

As he is still a serving MP, and voted for Johnson to become leader when the  candidate he supported dropped out, this is particularly difficult for Ross. But it will continue to be for any Tory leader in Scotland.

Now, of course, were there to be a separate party and they worked together at Westminster, there would still be questions for them on issues over which the UK parliament holds sway.

Let's imagine an independent Scottish centre-right party voted for cuts in public spending, or benefits, which affected Scogtland. They would quite rightly be asked about that.

But the argument made way back when that a separate centre-right party might be more distinctively Scottish and flex more Caledonian political muscle must still be in the minds of at least some Tories north of the Border.

However, from speaking to Tories over the last few years, I believe the chances of that happening any time soon appear to be slim. In fact if it ever happens (if) it could be many, many political light years in the future.

  • You can see my interview with Douglas Ross in full here: