So, the Scottish Tories are meeting in Stirling this weekend for two days of torrid whispering in corners about Ruth Davidson’s leadership and not discussing more powers for the Scottish Parliament.
The event will also feature a Better Together reception as Labour and Liberal Democrat conferences have done. Alistair Darling in his role as chair of Better Together will be speaking. Typically, the SNP, including people who should know better, have been chuntering about this. Rather than discuss the nitty gritty of independence, because their plans are constantly being shown to be a bit lacking in either logic,detail or accuracy, the SNP like to talk up the presence of the Tories in the Better Together campaign. Not the most grown-up approach.
But that tactic, if you think about it, displays a worrying, almost sinister, mindset. It’s not exactly what you would call pluralistic. I don’t care much for the Conservative Party’s world view. Even its supposed moderate programme, which involved getting rid of the Human Rights Act, marriage tax breaks and inheritance tax cuts for rich, dead people, as well as eroding employment rights, was bad enough. The nastier side that we are seeing at the moment on equal marriage and Europe really makes me feel very uncomfortable.
Ok, I don’t like what they stand for. Some of it makes my skin crawl and every day I’m grateful that the Liberal Democrats are in there at Westminster stopping the worst of their ideas. I can’t deny, though, that there is a very long tradition of Conservative thinking and support within Scotland and that there has to be a place in the debate and in Scottish political life for them.
If dealing with the Tories is so bad, you have to wonder why the SNP are running councils with them and why their minority government between 2007 and 2011 relied so heavily on Conservative support.
The SNP need to avoid creating the impression that they are seeking to exclude any of Scotland’s mainstream political parties. Our current parliament is made up so that parties have to work together. If Scotland votes for independence, it would be a massively retrograde step if that was not the case. I don’t think that any one seriously thinks it would be, so maybe the SNP sshould just grow up a bit. Three of Scotland’s main political parties are working together in what they see as Scotland’s best interests. Together, they cover all but six of Scotland’s Westminster seats. They are headed by a credible and engaging figure who would wipe the floor with Alex Salmond if the First Minister would be brave enough to debate him. The case for independence is so far going backwards in the polls. If Salmond and Yes Scotland are going to make any headway, they are going to have to bring more to the debate than “Oh look, there’s Darling with the Tories.”
I haven’t heard one person outside of politics mention the Tory Conference. Most people are blissfully unaware that it’s going on. The conversations I do have with them on independence tend to revolve around pensions, currency and jobs, as well as feeling part of the UK. There’s a long way until September next year and the debate needs to be of much greater quality than it currently is.Better Together is not exempt from this either. Both sides need to be better at understanding where people are at in their thinking and responding to that, not just engaging in sterile, ill-tempered acrimony.