Scottish Tory membership up by 2,000, claims under-fire new leader

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RUTH Davidson is to claim an extra 2,000 new or “lapsed” Tories have joined her party’s ranks in recent months, as she seeks to counter doubts over her performance at her first Scottish conference as leader today.

With David Cameron due to speak to the Scottish Conservatives as they gather in Troon this morning, Ms Davidson used an e-mail to party members yesterday to claim she had already markedly boosted the party’s dwindling ranks since taking over in November.

Last autumn, only 5,600 members took part in the Scottish leadership race, when the Glasgow MSP beat fellow MSPs Murdo Fraser and Jackson Carlaw. But the new leader claims a major recruitment campaign since then has had a marked effect in boosting numbers, even if a portion of the “new” recruits are thought to be older supporters who had let their membership lapse.

But, with Ms Davidson set to address the party tomorrow, party figures said there were question marks over her performance, and that she had so far failed to deal with the party’s “split” over the constitutional question and its future direction.

In the leadership campaign, Ms Davidson declared the current division of powers between Holyrood and Westminster was a “line in the sand”.

However, Mr Cameron used a speech in Edinburgh last month to say the question of Holyrood’s powers should be “on the table” if Scotland votes “no” to independence.

Former party donor John McGlynn, who resigned as a party member after Ms Davidson’s election, said last night that, in the eyes of many, the new leader was already “dead in the water”.