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Tory 'reformer' opposed gays and devolution

LORD Sanderson, the man who is expected to be given the task of reshaping the Tories' future in Scotland, has a parliamentary record of opposing gay rights and calling for powers to be taken from the Scottish Parliament.

The revelations have caused even more concern among senior party members who object to Scottish Tory chairman Andrew Fulton's decision to make the 77-year-old peer head of the review into why they did so badly in the general election.

Several senior members, including former candidates, MSPs and others, have threatened to refuse to co-operate in a review which they believe "will go nowhere".

Lord Sanderson, who is expected to be named at the Scottish party council meeting in Edinburgh as the chair of the review, was already controversial because of his stint as party chairman in the 1990s.

In 1990 he deposed Michael Forsyth and then purged the party of young right-wingers.

It is his recent parliamentary activities that have now come under scrutiny. On three occasions since 2000, he has voted against gay and transgender rights.

In November last year he made a speech calling for planning powers to be removed from the Scottish Government to force Scotland to accept nuclear power stations.

Last month, in his contribution to the Queen's Speech debate, he called for Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles to lose their constituency status.

"It's not just that he is a 77-year-old who served under Margaret Thatcher and is tainted by involvement with that government," one senior party source told The Scotsman.

"It is also that his views on devolution and gay rights are relics from the party's past which we need to leave behind if we are to look forward and look like a modern progressive party."

Another party member who does not wish to be involved in a review led by Lord Sanderson added: "It's going to be the slowest car crash in history. I don't want to be in it when it happens."

There have been complaints that Lord Sanderson represents the old landed gentry side of the party "more interested in hunting and shooting" than in a progressive agenda. The Scotsman yesterday revealed Mr Fulton wants his predecessor as chairman to head the review because Lord Sanderson agrees that the party needs a far more centralised structure, giving Mr Fulton powers over selection of candidates and campaign strategy.

He is expected to be joined on the review panel by the recent candidate for Aberdeen South, Amanda Harvey, the former chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise.

Kim Donald, another divisive figure from the party's past, who used to be deputy chairwoman, is also a likely member.

In 2007 former MSP Brian Monteith, who resigned from the party several years ago, wrote of Ms Donald: "To Tory party members she is remembered as the most divisive official to walk along party corridors.

"She is to Scottish politics what white phosphorous is to clean air".

Last night a senior party member told the Scotsman that "those words could easily be applied now".

A fourth member is set to be a major party donor James Stewart. Sources suggest that there will also be a fifth name announced.

 
 
 

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