by Clive C Schmulian
THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLES THE BLOG HAS YET PUBLISHED. THE NEED FOR A SCOTTISH PARTY OF THE CONSERVATIVE RIGHT IS CLAMANT. THE SCOTTISH CONSERVATIVE AND UNIONIST PARTY IS DEAD. LONG LIVE CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES! CLIVE C SCHMULIAN SAYS HOW.
In about five weeks time a life long Conservative supporter will be voting SNP for the first time in the Scottish Parliament elections.Â To be more specific, Iâ€™ll be voting for independence rather than the SNP.Â I do not support most of the SNPâ€™s policies and remain a supporter of conservative values, however I will be casting my vote on the single issue of independence. Iâ€™ll still be voting for my local Conservative council candidate and in fact would gladly rejoin the Conservative party.Â Iâ€™d prefer to argue my case within the Conservative Party, although given its official title â€œScottish Conservative and Unionist Partyâ€ I am not sure whether my membership application would be welcome. Given that my support for the SNP is restricted to independence, I have no intention of joining the Nationalists and doubt whether they would appreciate my support.
What has brought a former unionist to vote for the SNP and to launch Conservatives for Independence?Â The key issues to understand are that:
- we see independence as the key to a revival of the centre right in Scotland (rather than a cause in itself)
- the Union is now an obstacle for the centre right in Scotland and England.
We supported the Union and opposed devolution. Historically, Scotland achieved much as part of the Union, throughout ties with the British Empire, commercially and militarily and we are not apologizing for our previous position.Â Devolution has changed our view.
The Unionist stance that Scotland does financially well out of the Union because of increased government spending in Scotland (block grant / Barnett formula), crucially goes against a principle conservative belief in governments spending less.Â For years the Conservatives have been supporting higher levels of spending in Scotland and hence an enlarged size of government.Â This is hardly a foundation on which to support cutting taxes and limiting the size of the state.
Politically, the Union allowed Scotland to have a Conservative government as part of the United Kingdom.Â Whilst, thanks to PR, the Conservatives have a presence in the Scottish Parliament, there is no conceivable way that the Conservatives could form a government in Scotland.Â Their only hope of influence is to support a minority Labour administration to defend the Union.Â Annabel Goldieâ€™s â€œVote Blue, Support Redâ€ may be designed to save the Unionist Labour Party, but it is politically inept for both parties.
There is nowhere for the Conservatives to go in Scotland.Â They are stuck in a dead end and are politically almost irrelevant in Scotland.Â Even with modest gains in the forthcoming Scottish elections and additional representation in local government, the Scottish Conservatives will still be stuck in a cul-de-sac with no policies, no talent and no future.
The Union currently delivers 57 non-Conservative Scottish MPs to Westminster. Even with a slight David Cameron induced electoral recovery the Conservatives could only win a handful of additional Scottish MPs.Â A Conservative government at Holyrood is impossible and the Conservatives chance of forming a government in England is hampered by the Union.Â The Conservatives can sing â€œRule Britanniaâ€, wave Union flags and be all sentimental about the good old days, but the Union is doing the cause no good in any part of these islands.
Pro-Union Scottish Conservatives and Labour argue that taxes will have to go up in an independent Scotland to support current levels of public spending.Â Thatâ€™s fine, if Scottish voters want to spend 20% more on public services than in England, no problem â€“ puts taxes up.Â If this means that Scots have to pay far higher levels of tax, so be it.Â Scotlandâ€™s politicians will then be accountable to Scottish voters for levels of taxation and spending.
But how can conservatives support higher taxes?Â We donâ€™t and we donâ€™t think that voters will either at which point they will start to take a political party that supports lower taxation seriously.
This sounds very similar to the argument made for fiscal autonomy by some Scottish Tories.Â This would keep Scotland within the UK but give the Scottish parliament control over tax raised in Scotland.Â Why not support this position?Â We do support it certainly as an improvement on the status quo.Â To make fiscal autonomy work, as well as setting levels of personal taxation, the Scottish parliament would need to have control over levels of corporate taxation, indirect taxes etc ie not just income tax.Â To have this level of financial power and control over spending on most day to day matters, leaves very little left for Westminster to legislate for Scotland.Â Other than maintaining the emotional link to the Union, itâ€™s better to have a clean break.
The Unionists claim that business will desert Scotland â€“ thatâ€™s what David Murray is saying.Â The same threats were made about devolution and they never happened.Â As long as the economic policies of an independent Scotland are sensible, business will be unaffected.Â The potential to cut levels of taxation in an independent Scotland could in fact attract business and create jobs and wealth.
The political benefit for the centre right in Scotland will not just be related to making Scottish politicians more accountable as detailed above.Â Post independence, the SNP will have achieved their (one) goal and their pro-independence coalition could split up across the political spectrum.Â Whilst the SNP tries to maintain a centre / centre left position on many issues, much of its support is from areas not so long ago held by the Conservatives.
Post independence, Scottish politics will re-align and we believe that this will be in the favour of the centre right in Scotland.Â We repeatedly use the term centre-right, rather than Scottish Conservative, because post independence the centre right will need to form a new political party.Â The Conservative brand is so damaged in Scotland that a new organization will need to be formed with a Scottish identity that attracts former Conservatives, former centre right nationalists and new blood.
We donâ€™t pretend that there will be a centre right government overnight following independence, but we are confident that within a very short time the centre right in Scotland can take over 30% of votes and be in a position to form a government in Scotland.Â This is currently impossible.Â Independence is the answer for the centre right in Scotland.Â Why do you think that Labour support the Union?
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