Conservatives and the Union: A Study of Conservative Party Attitudes to Scotland

Conservatives and the Union: A Study of Conservative Party Attitudes to Scotland

Conservatives and the Union: A Study of Conservative Party Attitudes to Scotland

Conservatives and the Union: A Study of Conservative Party Attitudes to Scotland

Excerpt

After the 1987 General Election, only ten Conservatives out of seventy-two MPs in total had been elected from Scotland. The party had suffered its worst performance since 1910, or 1880 if the Liberal Unionists are not included in the pre-World War One figures. But the Conservatives won an overall Commons majority which was the size of the total representation of Scotland in the Commons. Following the Election the two vice presidents of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association (SCUA) produced a report for their executive. The report's central comment was that the party was perceived in Scotland to be 'English and anti-Scottish'. The authors went on to argue that this was a 'feature of (let's admit it) an over-centralized London-dominated country and of Scots having very sensitive nerve endings'.

The conclusion that the party was perceived to be anti-Scottish was significant. It recognised that a political party had to be seen as having a Scottish dimension, that being a British party, even one that had revived a sense of British patriotism, was insufficient in contemporary Scotland. Support for some measure of Scottish devolution has, historically, been the most obvious means by which political parties have presented themselves to the electorate as pro-Scottish. For over a century, the Conservatives had succeeded in this by supporting the passage of an Act to establish the Scottish Office and subsequently by their association with the Office's development. Occasionally, during this period the Conservatives portrayed their opponents as anti- Scottish. The nationalisation programme of the post-war Attlee Government was presented as taking control of Scottish industries out of Scotland and placing them in the hands of London bureaucrats.

By the late 1980s the appearance of Scottish control of Scottish affairs had been created with a structure of administrative devolution based in Edinburgh. This inevitably led to frustration when Scots found that this proved to be more apparent than real. For the Conservatives to turn round and argue that Scotland was a part of Britain and had to accept British policies was bound to be unpopular after a century when the notion of some kind of Scottish control of Scottish . . .

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