Gerald Warner: That’s all folks from the Conservative Loony Troons

DO NOT venture near Troon next Friday or Saturday if you are squeamish about intruding into private grief. That tragicomic body the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party will be holding its annual conference, allegedly in the concert hall, more likely in the adjoining telephone kiosk.

If you happen to pass by, it would be a civilised gesture to doff your hat out of respect for the deceased.

The Scottish Tories were not killed off by their opponents; they committed suicide. The gruesome process began on the morning of 12 September, 1997, hours after the affirmative result of the devolution referendum, when the craven losers rushed to reinvent themselves as born-again devolutionists. By lunchtime it was as difficult to find a Tory opponent of devolution as it had been to find a communist in Berlin the day after the Wall came down. The constitutional process that, 24 hours previously, had been characterised by the Scottish Conservatives as the end of civilisation had come about; but suddenly it was the settled will not only of that Brechtian entity the Scottish People but, pre-eminently, of that Vichy confederacy the Scottish Conservative Party.

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The irony of that history is that there was a valuable role the Scottish Tories could have played. By riding shotgun on the parliament they could have roused public opinion to insist on reforms, to revisit its composition, to end the iniquitous system of MSPs appointed from closed lists controlled by party leaders, to outlaw the door-keeping cronyism that made the much-hyped parliament a cushy pull-in for public-sector pond-life, even to halt the scandal of the parliament building. Instead, they went native. Conservative MSPs queued up for their medals on day one with the rest of their colleagues; rejected by the electorate, they were allocated parliamentary seats on the list system, given salaries and generous expenses (“Taxi for Mr McLetchie!”). What was not to like?

There was no delusion they did not entertain, no blunder they did not commit. All that mattered was to pay homage to devolution, to convince their implacable critics they were not the “English” party and to make sure they were greeted with smiles by their opponents, when only scowls would have testified to their political significance. As they became acclimatised to the Holyrood bubble they lost touch with the real Tory Party – the Conservative voters – outside. When the Conservatives stoutly opposed devolution at the 1997 general election – supposedly their nadir – they still gained half a million votes; after Annabel Goldie had spent six years pursuing her “vision” of Conservatism, “to make it relevant to a devolved Scotland”, at last year’s Scottish election the Tories attracted 276,652 votes.

Goldie’s crowning folly was to join the Calman Commission, whose outcome has been the Scotland Bill, Devo Plus, Devo Max and a whole plethora of safety nets that guarantee Alex Salmond 90 per cent independence even if he loses the referendum. Murdo Fraser’s full fiscal autonomy haverings and all that they have spawned are a betrayal of Scottish businesses, households and taxpayers, who would find themselves at the mercy of the spendthrift and economically illiterate muppets at Holyrood. To tinker in this way with taxation would unravel the whole UK fiscal system and bring the member nations into conflict, further undermining the Union.

Goldie was a hard act to follow in terms of buffoonery, but the party rose to the challenge by electing as its leader Ruth Davidson, of whom all the public knows is that she is a lesbian kickboxer. She had three months’ parliamentary experience, nobody had ever elected her to anything until she secured 2,278 first preference votes in the leadership election from the 8,500 surviving party faithful, and she enjoys the same relationship to David Cameron as Sooty to Harry Corbett. Both she and her deputy Jackson Carlaw have signed the pledge supporting same-sex marriage: since the other political parties also back the proposed legislation, that disenfranchises all Scots who object to the outlawing of the terms “husband” and “wife”.

What reason could anyone now ever have for voting Conservative? The same applies south of the Border, where Dave failed to win an election against Gordon Brown(!) because his core vote has abandoned him. The U-turns (euphemism for betrayals) continue: Davidson has suddenly embraced the Nanny State proposal for minimum pricing of alcohol, citing the Sheffield Study as grounds for conversion; the real Damascene converter was Mr Samantha Sheffield (alias David Cameron) who endorsed minimum pricing on 5 March, nine days before La Davidson’s speech at Holyrood. It hardly matters. The people who most loathe the Scottish Tories are their former supporters; otherwise they are on the cusp between contempt and pity. «