THE SCOTTISH Conservative leadership is in “disarray” over plans to hand new powers to Holyrood, political opponents said yesterday.
The claim followed a warning from party grandee Lord Forsyth that Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson’s panel looking into greater devolution is a “suicide mission”.
The party is preparing to gather for its annual conference in Stirling this week, but faces fresh questions over its commitment to extend the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
The pro-Union parties in the independence debate are under pressure to set out their plans for further devolution if Scots vote to remain in the UK in next year’s referendum.
Ms Davidson had secured the Tory leadership after declaring a “line in the sand” to more devolution, but performed a U-turn earlier this year with the announcement that a commission under Lord Strathclyde would examine the prospect, particularly of extending tax-raising powers.
Lord Forsyth has long opposed any moves to extend devolution and backed Ms Davidson in her leadership bid on this basis.
“I find Ruth Davidson’s volte face on this just incomprehensible,” he said.
“Quite a lot of our supporters are the people who pay these taxes and will be affected by this – so pursuing a policy that is actually going to hit your own supporters and potential supporters extremely hard in the pocket as a way of recovering your strength in Scotland strikes me as novel and unlikely to succeed.
“It looks like a bit of a suicide mission to go down that track.”
He added: “Why give in and raise the white flag when the enemy are on the run and stuck in bogs, unable to respond?”
He described “devo-max” –which would see substantial extra financial powers devolved to Holyrood – as a slippery slope that would lead to the “fracturing of the United Kingdom”.
The SNP seized on the comments, saying they undermined claims by Ms Davidson that the party intends to deliver any more powers to Scotland.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: “The Scottish Conservatives are in disarray, with rumblings from various sources about the leadership of Ruth Davidson.
“Now Lord Forsyth has entered the fray and describes the confusion in the party’s calls for extra powers in the unlikely event of a No vote as being akin to a party ‘ suicide mission’.
“This follows the thinly veiled attack from previous leadership contender Murdo Fraser about the direction of the party, and comes fresh on the heels of the news that the Scottish Tories’ much-promoted devolution panel not only hasn’t met – it has not even set a date to start discussions.
“It’s like 1979 all over again and they have no intention of delivering more powers for Scotland.
“They’re just paying lip-service to the idea.”
A Tory party spokesman said: “Lord Fosyth is entitled to his views, several weeks after Ruth outlined our views on the possibility of further powers.
“But there is a clear majority of people in Scotland who want the Scottish Parliament to have more responsibility for raising the money it spends.
“That’s why the Scottish Conservatives want to offer the people of Scotland a positive vision for a future very much within the UK.”