Sunday, 21 September 2003

Are the Scottish Tories on the way back?

Last week the Sunday Times reported that a majority of Tory MSPs now favoured fiscal independence for the Scottish parliament. At yesterday's Scottish Conservative conference, party leader David McLetchie said that he was against fiscal independence! I wonder if the Sunday Times report was wrong - if not McLetchie leads a party that sees a very different future for Scotland than he does.

Mr McLetchie thinks that the Scottish Tories can now overtake the Nationalists and become the main opposition party in Scotland. The polls show the Tories catching up with the SNP - currently in disarray:

At the Scottish parliament election in May, the Tories won 16.6% of the first-past-the-post votes and 15.8% of the list votes, compared to the SNP’s 23.7% and 20.4%.

McLetchie cited recent polling figures which he believes favour his party. A private poll by the polling organisation YouGov, has shown the Tories and SNP level at "just over 20%".

Conservative activists tend to be rather on the elderly side and the party is often thought to be out-of-touch with younger people. The poll quoted by McLetchie shows the Scottish Tories doing particularly well in the 20-29 age range. If the Conservatives in Scotland can emphasise the natural linkage between economic and personal freedoms they may indeed have a chance of becoming the main opposition party. All of Scotland's other parties are mired in expanding statism and political correctness. There is room for an alternative.