Pandas, Lesbians and Scottish Tories


Scotland – a profoundly left wing nation where you’ll find more pandas than Conservative MPs.

On the face of it, the omens are not good for the centre right in Scotland. Only one MP – David Mundell, who helpfully manages to also be the Secretary of State – a declining share of the vote and a dominant SNP that has changed the game and removed Scottish Labour’s reason to exist.

Even Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP alluded to the party’s perceived unpopularity north of the border when she said she wasn’t sure what was harder, coming out as a Tory or as a lesbian.

However, I suspect Ms Davidson – one of the right’s brightest political talents – was cleverly portraying herself and her party as underdogs.

In truth, she knows the political picture in Scotland is more complex. For a start, social attitudes surveys consistently show that people north of Hadrian’s Wall are not particularly left wing. On most issues they either match what the English think or are only slightly more progressive.

And the idea that Scots had an undying hatred of Mrs Thatcher doesn’t hold up to scrutiny either. Polling shows she was relatively popular during the first part of her term, and in 1987 almost a quarter of the electorate voted for the Iron Lady and her party.

That share actually went up in 1992, and that’s despite the poll tax and the enduring myth that somehow Scotland was used as a Guinea Pig for the hated tax.

There’s been lots written on Conservatism in Scotland but this piece from Spiked is one of the best.

It underlines what many English commentators forget – partly because the Scottish political narrative is currently devoted to one issue – there is a deep strain of fiscal and social conservatism north of the border.

And Labour’s collapse gave Ruth Davidson the opportunity she needed to stress her party’s unionist credentials. Cannily, she argued that the Scots Tories wouldn’t win, but they were the best credible opposition to nationalism.

If you wanted the UK to stay together – there was only one realistic alternative to the SNP.

Hence the Scottish Parliament election result earlier this month, which saw the Conservatives become the second biggest party North of the Border.

Of course, the big disruptive factor is still the rise of the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon’s party remains miles ahead while Labour struggles to define itself in an era when the question of nationhood dominates Scottish politics.




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