I admit to being a student of all things Scottish Conservative. They are my closest rivals in Perthshire and just a few elections ago they came within 48 votes of taking the Perth constituency. Defiantly enigmatic the Scottish Tories are the great outsiders. Decades after being electorally wiped out a toxicity still sticks to them like a radio active limpet to the Scottish body politic. They are the ‘effing Tories’ of lore as so brilliantly characterised by David Cameron, and they have a rare ability to infuriate even the passions of the apolitical.
Their core support remains the more intemperate members of the Scottish middle class fortified by the charms of the Daily Mail. No election in Scotland would be complete without the now obligatory claim that this will be the election that will see a Scottish Conservative revival. This is usually followed by a further reversal of Conservative fortunes. Last time they secured yet another historic low securing the affections of only 14% of our fellow Scots. It seems that no amount of bagpipe blowing or tank manoeuvring from their still unloved leader can rescue their association with the ideological demagogues amongst their compatriots south of the border
So what of this election? Well, what you can say about the Tories is at least they have a strategy this time. The Scottish Conservatives have painted themselves as a defiantly unionist party recognising the fact that it is the constitution that still defines Scottish politics. Where SLab were left on the wrong side of their supporters in the referendum the Tories had no such problem and their unionism was cheered to the rafters by Tory voters who nearly all voted No. Where SLab ended up as the biggest helpful idiots in the history of Scottish politics the Tories emerged unscathed and probably in a better condition than when they first entered the Better Together alliance.
They have absolutely nothing to lose therefore by adopting a hardline unionist strategy and this also allows them to pick off the Labour unionist vote – and there is at least some evidence that this might just be working. Labour meanwhile are caught in the headlights, still against their former voters on the question of independence, but curiously not convincingly unionist enough. It is a perfect storm in a teacake.
And all of this is great for us. With SLab still pitched against their former voters the Conservatives unwittingly continue to feed the cavernous appetite for constitutional politics. They assist this effort immensely by helping create the idea that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for the union. Helping define the contest as such and characterising an independence vote as an anti Conservative vote could’t be more helpful. Incredibly, all of this is being propagated by the Scottish Conservatives.
In this election it is the Scottish Conservatives that will not stop talking about another referendum and there are going to be some fascinating hustings as a result. Unless SLab start to get to grips in how they are to respond to the ongoing constitutional/independence debate they are simply going to be washed away.
Decimated by allying themselves with the Tories SLab could be finished off by dithering about how they respond to the still great constitutional divide. The Tories have expertly played Labour for all they were worth and the endgame of Better Together is just about to played out. A second referendum, anyone?