It’s now over six months since we’ve had Scottish Conservative MPs as a feature of the House of Commons. You’ll remember how they were going to be a distinctive voice for Scotland always putting the Scottish interest first. They were ‘Ruth’s’ Tories prepared to bravely defy their Westminster whips if it was in Scotland’s interest. Maybe it would then be an opportunity to check in and ask how these most curious and enigmatic of Scottish political creatures have got on with this selfless political task?
Well, the truth is they have been nothing other than Scottish lobby fodder for Theresa May and are amongst the most enthusiastic cheer leaders of this chaotic and haphazard Government.
They have trooped through the lobbies supporting a series of measures imposing the hardest of Brexits on Scotland threatening our devolution settlement. They have been enthusiastic backers of the £1.5 billion DUP bung. On Scotland’s behalf they have ensured that Universal Credit and WASPI are administered in their cruelest and most vindictive of forms. If these are Scottish Tories looking after the Scottish interest god help us if we ever secured ones that wanted to see Scotland given a further kick-in by the UK Tories…
They seem to spend all their time bravely holding the UK Government to account on behalf of their constituents by, ehm, asking questions about a Scottish Government 500 miles away! Some of their number, so desperate to desert the Scottish Parliament, have even travelled all the way to London to ask questions of Nicola Sturgeon. Being pulled up by a succession of Deputy Speakers, the Scottish Tories are observed with a ‘what on earth are they on about’ bewilderment from everyone across the chamber from them? Meanwhile turning up for important debates on issues in which they have responsibility such as seasonal workers on our farms ranks a poor second in scoring debating points about the ‘essenpee’ in Edinburgh.
Noticing how embarrassing they have become the Government have had to take ingenious steps to give them some sort of purpose and ‘credibilty’. Laughingly, it is their ‘representations’ that have saved the oil and gas industry, frozen duty on Scotch whisky and eradicated VAT on police and fire services. Next week it will be the Scottish Tories who will have been responsible for securing world peace, inventing leprechauns and winning the Battle of Bannockburn! They almost seem to delusionaly believe the nonsense that it is they who are singularly responsible for these ‘achievements’ repeatedly tweeting photos of themselves sitting with some distracted and bored UK Minister, or other.
The problem for the Scottish Conservatives is that they were elected as the ‘Ruth Davidson says no to a second referendum party’ and had no real idea what they were going to do when they got to Westminster. The whips were never going to let them operate as a distinctive group particularly when the Conservatives are a minority Government. Watching the former Tory Chief Whip apply the thumb screws to one of their number who dared to think for himself on Brexit was beyond embarrassing and cringeworthy. They are simply Theresa’s Scottish Tories expected to ask ‘how high’ when asked to jump on her behalf.
The Scottish Conservatives are now dropping like a stone in Scottish Westminster opinion polls and are now back firmly in third place. I reckon that a lot of this decline is down to their constituents observing the performance of their MPs in Parliament and deciding what a dreadful mistake they’ve made. Scotland needs champions who will take on this government and defend their communities. Instead in large swathes of Scotland they have got nothing other than the most obedient and supine of lobby fodder for one of the most disastrous Governments in recent political history.
This is Pete Wishart’s article for next edition of the Scot’s Independent. Available monthly.