George Eustice: Centre right could reunite Scotland

Scottish Conservatives are currently choosing a new leader and the debate has been more lively than usual with one candidate, Murdo Fraser, making the case for dismantling the Scottish Conservatives and forming a new party on the centre right.

George Eustice: Centre right could reunite Scotland
George Eustice: Centre right could reunite Scotland

It would be an audacious plan, but one that the party should seriously consider.

In opposition, critics routinely pointed to the failure of the Conservatives to make headway in the north of England, but that changed once the party broadened its appeal. The party was weak in Wales after the 1997 rout, but there was a consistent recovery in its fortunes. Welsh Conservatives were already on the way back even before David Cameron took over. However, a recovery in Scotland has eluded every recent Conservative leader.

Michael Howard delivered passionate speeches about the union and always insisted that Scotland feature prominently in his tour programme.

Meanwhile, David Cameron, who has Scottish ancestors, ordered that the party be ambitious in its Scottish campaign, with no less than a dozen seats made targets at the last election, even though the challenge of winning them would always be harder.

But there is still only one Tory MP in Scotland.

The idea of forming an independent and distinctive centre right party in Scotland is not new.

It was mooted in 2006, early in Cameron's leadership. Proponents said that it was better to have a successful party that could work alongside the Conservatives than continue as we were, leaving the field to Labour and the SNP.

They argued that a breakaway party would fly once it left the nest. But opponents feared that such a new party could leave the nest and not fly, leaving the centre right in a worse position than ever and that Cameron's brand of conservatism would find favour north of the border given time.

Caution won the day, but five years on the debate has returned. Some say that it plays into the hands of the SNP, but I believe that's wrong.

Any new party would be a unionist party but potentially a more vibrant and successful one.

George Eustice is Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a former press secretary to David Cameron

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