Sunday, 10 November 2013

Why conservatives in Scotland should back 'Yes'!

This blog has already looked at why Green, Labour and Lib Dem voters should support Yes, yet there is a compelling argument for those on the right of the political spectrum to want independence too.  I’m going to break these down into three categories: the present, the future under ‘no’, and the ‘yes’ future.
The present
Depending upon who you ask, the Conservative Party has too much or too little representation in Scotland.  Let’s look at the numbers.
The last four Westminster elections (1997 to 2010) had the Conservative Party securing an average of 16.4% of the vote in Scotland.  Their average percentage of the seats over that time is 1.15%.  That isn’t a typo that really is how poor Westminster has been at reflecting the views of Conservative voters in Scotland.

Is this really the type of 'democracy' you want to defend?
Because Scotland has so few Tory MPs, they have very little influence over the UK party.  They can’t shape policy and they can’t promote Scotland’s interests.
The Scottish Parliament, by contrast, has been much kinder to conservatives.  As we noted in our blog, 'Why Democracy will be stronger in an Independent Scotland', the share of the votes more accurately reflects the share of the seats.  Conservatives have had steady representation after every Holyrood election whilst they have been all but wiped out at Westminster.
The future under ‘no’
We saw above that the Scottish Parliament offers much more to conservative minded voters in Scotland than Westminster, but what if there were a ‘no’ vote in September?  Some things would change, and others would stay the same, but the fortunes of the Conservative Party in Scotland would not improve.
Scottish members of the Conservative party will continue to be an insignificant part of a party which is either too weak to influence any policies (when Labour have an overwhelming majority) or so powerful that support from Scotland is unnecessary (when the Tories have an overwhelming majority).  In both instances, Conservative voters in Scotland are left feeble.
Because of Westminster’s ‘first past the post’ system, there is no real competition of ideas.  The least bad side from the Labour/Tory duopoly always wins, and this makes both sides afraid to offer anything of substance.  They attack one another, they smear each other’s names, and ultimately their policies in most regards begin to mirror one another.  Only the brand remains the same, and the members and activists are marginalised.

Stop agreeing and start debating!
If you want conservative values to have an influence in decisions in Scotland, or members’ values to influence party policy, then the ‘no’ future offers very little to you.  If you want a chance to end the perception that the Tories are 'London's party in Scotland', then ‘no’ offers nothing for you.  If you want representation which reflects the actual support of your party, every time, then ‘no’ offers nothing for you.
The ‘Yes’ future
A ‘Yes’ vote will change Scottish politics and offers the only realistic chance of a widespread conservative revival.  Without outside interference, the Scottish Conservatives can no longer be accused of being ‘London’s Party in Scotland’.  The notion that only the SNP or Labour represents Scotland’s interests will end, creating more floating voters who will be open to persuasion.
People will no longer vote against a party, as they do at Westminster, but solely for one.  The near identical approaches which the South East centric Labour Party and the South East centric Conservative Party will not work.  If you want elected, you need to offer something different from the rest.

There will be more competition of ideas too.  If those who lead the party drift away from the values of its members, then its members will have alternatives to choose from.  On the right, the Scottish Democratic Alliance, which is active and offering policy ideas right now, is the most obvious choice yet others will appear following a Yes vote.
Voting ‘Yes’ isn’t a vote against Britain, just a vote for more decisions to be made in Scotland.  It is a rejection of Westminster style politics in favour of more representative parliaments.  There is nothing there which goes against conservative values and there is nothing to be gained by trying to protect a system which is actively working against conservatives in Scotland.
If you want you and your constituency branch to have influence over policy, if you believe that 16.4% of the population deserve more than 1.15% of the representation, if you want any hope of your beliefs and values having popular support in Scotland, then, as a conservative, you should vote ‘Yes’!  A 'no' future has no future.
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