Scottish Tories' fringe show

THE Scottish Conservative manifesto for the Holyrood elections is refreshingly down to earth and, for the most part, practical. The main emphasis is on fighting crime and reducing the scourge of drug addiction - the Tories promise to spend an extra £100 million a year on drug rehabilitation programmes.

However, as the Tory leader, Annabel Goldie, used her manifesto launch to say Scottish Conservatives would refuse to enter any coalition with other parties, it is difficult to see how these policies will ever be implemented. By effectively ruling out entering government, Ms Goldie runs the risk of turning the Scottish Tories into a fringe party. This would be bad for the Conservatives, and bad for Scottish democracy.

Even if the Tories were to win an outright majority at Holyrood - something the devolution settlement makes practically impossible to achieve - they would be faced with finding the 1 billion in extra spending proposed in the manifesto. Their suggestion that this would come from savings within the existing Executive budget is, alas, easier said than done.

The Scottish Tory manifesto deserves close reading. It is just a pity that the party seems to want to cheer from the sidelines rather than take part in the rough and tumble of government.