Conservative northern branch, Zero to offer Scotland

Murdo Fraser accuses the Scottish Government of being a Potemkin Government but the increasingly Scotiaphobic Tory northern branch has nothing to offer Scotland. Scottish voters know it and Murdo knows it, which is why he was silent about his own party’s record in government. 

Just three months ago the Conservative northern branch leader Douglas Ross won some plaudits calling for Johnson’s resignation for attending boozy parties while the rest of the country was in lockdown and in February Tory MSP Russell Findlay was too busy painting his bathroom to meet the PM on his furtive foray into Fife. A recent poll shows that even Labour’s moribound northern branch has overtaken the Tories.

Now with the war in Ukraine muting rebelliousness in northern branch ranks, Murdo is hanging his party's meagre hopes on a depressed local election turnout in May, which underscores its vacuousness.

After 12 years of a UK Conservative government, the wreckage is pervasive. Public services have been starved of funding, poverty and inequality have risen, and the English NHS is being privatised by stealth, with Scotland’s next in line. The UK’s Covid death rate is among the highest in Europe, government corruption is rife and ministers routinely flout the law.

Then there’s Brexit, a disastrous own goal that will depress GDP by 4%, inflicting twice the damage done by Covid. UK economic growth lags behind Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Between 2019 and 2022, trade with Germany crashed 18%, and Germany’s exports to the UK are down nearly a quarter. The UK’s investment attractiveness took a 17% hit in 2020/21. Foreign investment in strategic growth sectors like software fell by a third while advanced engineering, the environment, infrastructure and transport plunged 25%.

Scotland’s export driven economy has lost billions. The Australia and New Zealand trade deals negotiated by the UK Government give beef and lamb exporters with lower costs and animal welfare standards unfettered access to the UK market, undercutting Scottish farmers, crofters and food producers. Exports of Scottish whisky and salmon are significantly down since 2019. For the first time since 1997, the UK now spends more on importing goods from the rest of the world than it does from the EU.

Inflation is at a 30-year high, interest rates and regressive taxes are up, National Insurance rates have risen punishing the working and not the wealthy and Sunak’s spring statement did nothing to alleviate the suffering of millions. Safe from a windfall tax, private energy companies profiteer while Scottish renewables producers’ pay ten times in grid connection charges than their southern counterparts and Scottish consumers pay among the highest electricity standing charges in the UK, an absurdity given Scotland’s status as a net energy exporter.

What Murdo Fraser fails to understand is that an independent Scotland won’t be dominated by a single political party, there will even probably be a true Scottish Conservative party to replace the London led unionist tory party and there will be several other parties to better reflect the nation’s political diversity. The difference is they will represent Scotland’s interests, not those of another country but that probably does mean there will be no room for politicians such as Fraser. 

By Leah Gunn Barrett