Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Keeping Hold Of Nurse

I enjoyed this wonderfully mischievous letter in today's Herald from SNP MEP Alyn Smith. I'm not usually one for conspiracy theories, but even Scottish Tories would have to admit there might be a certain logic to this one.


If noted intellect David Mundell MP sees fit to grade his Tory MSP colleagues then the Tory gene pool must be gey shallow right enough. More of a paddling pool, or perhaps a gene puddle.

But am I being too cynical in wondering why a paper that has existed since the summer was only leaked just before their turmoil-by-the-Tay on the eve of David Cameron's speech to the hushed faithful?

I spend time in Brussels, and this week in Strasbourg, talking to a number of colleagues, from all parties. The younger English Tories are almost unanimous in their view, at least in the bars and coffee lounges, that it is only a matter of time until the Tory mother-ship cuts the Scottish Tories loose as a bad job. They bear Scotland no particular ill-will, if they think of us at all, seeing us as the "near abroad", a convivial place to hunt and fish, and the source of the battalion of knuckle-draggers padding out the Labour benches at Westminster.

They see their party soft-pedalling on the Barnett Formula, the West Lothian Question and the, as they mistakenly see it, squillions in subsidies we ungrateful jocks fleece from the English taxpayer, not to mention the Scottish Raj running their government. They think their party in England could go after these issues harder without the need to shield their Scots colleagues from friendly fire. They view independence as a matter for us to decide and, increasingly, as a potential advantage for them.

So, is this leak in fact the opening salvo of covert friendly fire from Tory Central Office? If so, how should the Scots Tories react? I would have loved to be a fly on the wall as David Cameron headed back south having brought his cheery vacuity north to be greeted by Bill Walker and views more at home in Jurassic Park than Cool Britannia. Surely he must be tempted along the same lines as he looks towards his next Westminster election, probably facing the self-proclaimed Great Briton but irredeemably Scottish Gordon Brown.

I know a number of decent Scots Tories, and if it comes to it there are competent ones as well, looking to get a decent result for the people of Scotland, same as most Scots politicians of other parties. But is the party as a whole going to allow misty-eyed illogical sentiment for the Union to destroy them? Not least when their own UK party views them increasingly as at worst a hindrance and at best a slightly embarrassing mad old Scots Auntie Morag who sits at family gatherings dribbling into her soup muttering about the Treaty of Union?

In the European Parliament, there are dozens of modern centre-right political parties of the Christian Democrat model from large countries and small. Would the Scots Tories not do rather better to put sentiment to one side and embrace independence? The Tories right now are a de facto anti-Scottish party, so the SNP currently has a policy of not entering into coalitions with them. If they wised up they could reinvent themselves as the only party promoting a centre-right, pro-Scottish agenda. I disagree with the "centre right" but I'd work with them on the "pro-Scottish".

That does, of course, presume that they will change, though I suspect the change is going to be forced upon them anyway. Something for them to think about. Perhaps David Mundell could write us a memo?

Alyn Smith MEP, SNP Europe spokesman, European Parliament, Strasbourg.

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