DON'T MAKE OUR PARTY HISTORY; Traditionalists' Fury over Plan to Scrap 'Toxic Brand'

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), September 5, 2011 | Go to article overview

DON'T MAKE OUR PARTY HISTORY; Traditionalists' Fury over Plan to Scrap 'Toxic Brand'


Byline: Torcuil Crichton

A TOP Tory's plan to scrap the Scottish Conservatives if he wins their leadership election provoked a furious party backlash yesterday.

Murdo Fraser, the current deputy leader of the Scottish Tories and frontrunner to succeed Annabel Goldie, pledged to ditch the "toxic brand" and relaunch the party under a new name.

But last night, party traditionalists rubbished his plan and accused him of opening the party up to ridicule.

And his proposal prompted Glasgow MSP Ruth Davidson to throw her hat in the ring for the leadership - on a ticket of defending the present Scottish party.

Davidson said: "I am proud to be a Scottish Conservative and Unionist.

DISTRACTION

"This is a destabilising distraction that will be welcomed by no one more than Alex Salmond.

"I've got the confidence to speak to Scots about the issues that really matter to them."

Scotland Office minister David Mundell, the only Tory MP in Scotland, said changing the name is a "simplistic" approach.

He said: "I will take a very great deal of convincing that by simply having a separate party in Scotland, that will resolve the electoral issues that we face.

"I think it is quite a contradiction to be pledged to the continuance of the United Kingdom, to the concept of Great Britain, and then to present yourself as a separate party."

Lord Forsyth, the last Tory secretary of state for Scotland, described the plan as a "ludicrous idea" which amounted to a surrender to the SNP.

Announcing his plans, Fraser said: "There's a lot of interest in centreright values among people in Scotland but they don't vote for the Conservative Party.

"I think it's time we launched a new, progressive, centre-right party with a distinct Scottish identity.

"We'd be able to elect far more MPs to the House of Commons to support a future Conservative government."

The new group would contest Westminster, Holyrood and council elections, leaving David Cameron with the prospect of having no MPs in Scotland.

But senior Tories in Westminster have decided not to intervene directly in the leadership contest and Cameron was made aware of the Fraser plan beforehand.

Education Secretary Michael Gove, an Aberdonian, said the party in Scotland should be allowed "to determine its own destiny".

Last night, the SNP lapped up the news that Fraser, the front-runner in the contest, wants to effectively wind up the Scottish Tories.

SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said: "After well over a decade in Scottish political oblivion, the Scottish Tory Party has finally called in the receivers. The long, slow death of the Scottish Tories now looks like being a sudden demise."

For Labour, shadow secretary of state for Scotland Ann McKechin said the Tory problems went much deeper than a rebrand. …

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