Alex Massie Alex Massie

The Scottish Tories Cross Their Rubicon

Alea iacta est. And not before time. More than a year ago and at the outbreak of this independence referendum virus I wrote an article for this magazine arguing that, crikey, there was just a hint that the Conservative and Unionist party might become relevant in Scotland again. Or, at any rate, there was an opportunity for them to do so.

You see, the referendum offered Tories a chance to press the case for something they should have embraced long ago: proper fiscal autonomy within the Union. This might satisfy Scots’ evident thirst for real Home Rule without needing to go to all the trouble of winding up the Union after 300 years. And – let joy be allowed to gambol briefly in the winter sunshine – Ruth Davidson today has moved towards embracing this logic.

Plenty of people on the right have wasted years wondering why the Tories declined to show any interest in an idea that might both renew their own fortunes and, conveniently, allow for the possibility that Scotland might be better governed in the future. That is, the habits of spendthrift government – already threatened by the Great Crash of 2008 – might also be assaulted by the tedious and often unpopular need to raise the money you intend to spend. Scottish politics would be forced to grow up. Here, in truth, a reasonable person could argue there was less between this right-of-centre thesis and the prospectus offered by the SNP themselves. But what of it?

Anyway, Murdo Fraser grasped this during his doomed campaign for the Tory leadership during which he proposed dissolving the party and starting again. In retrospect perhaps we should not be surprised that he lost. Nevertheless when 40% or so of Tory members endorsed Murdo’s perspective you got the sense that something might have to change at some point.

There are still enough Tory voters for one to be able to say that not a day passes without another Tory voter dying.

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