The Scottish Conservatives could wind themselves up if Murdo Fraser MSP is successful in becoming leader of the party north of the border.
Fraser realises that the Tory brand is toxic in Scotland and wants a clean break. He has made it clear that if he is elected leader of the Scottish Conservatives he will hold a ballot of the membership to disband the party there and reform as a new party with a different name. His intention is that the new party would be federated with the British Conservative & Unionist Party with elected members taking the Tory whip as used to happen before the Scottish Unionist Party merged with the Tories in England & Wales to becomes the Scottish arm of the British Conservative & Unionist Party.
I don’t imagine the “Not the Tories because we’ve got a different name” Party in Scotland will see a significant revival of its fortunes just by changing its name and cutting some of its ties with the British Conservative & Unionist Party but let’s face it, they’ve got nothing to lose.
The right has been in serious decline – terminal decline – in Scotland for decades. It’s why the SUP merged with the British Conservative & Unionist Party in the first place and it’s why the Tories now have just one British MP elected in Scotland. It’s also why (along with pledging to abolish the Scottish Parliament) UKIP has never retained a deposit in an election in Scotland. The state accounts for 24.9% of everyone in employment in Scotland, what incentive is there for anyone in what is rapidly descending into a communist state to vote for a party that advocates a small state and low taxes with the cull of public sector workers that will ensue?
There are those who will see this as an opportunity for other hard unionist parties to mop up Scottish Tories who want to belong to a pan-union party but it’s not going to happen. This is little more than a rebranding exercise – they will still be Scottish conservatives, they will still take the Conservative & Unionist whip and they will continue to tell Scottish people that whatever their views on independence, they will never be granted independence on their watch.
If the Scottish Conservatives cease to exist as part of the British Conservative & Unionist Party, it won’t make any material difference to their electoral success (or lack thereof) in Scotland but it will make it very difficult for the British Conservatives to claim a mandate to govern the whole of the UK when it doesn’t even have a party in Scotland, let alone an MP. It will also make it very difficult for the Tories to maintain the illusion of the union in England where they are fighting a losing battle against the decline in unionism that has come about as a result of the institutional discrimination against the English.