The Scottish Mail on Sunday
We need pro-Union alliance party to stop the break-up of UK, says top Tory
A HIGH-PROFILE Tory MSP wants a pro-Union alliance with the Lib Dems and Labour to fight independence – which could signal the end of the Scottish Conservatives.
Adam Tomkins, who had been seen as a frontrunner to succeed Ruth Davidson, has called for a radical realignment of Scottish politics to derail Nicola Sturgeon’s bid to break up Britain.
He said it is time to consider not only abolishing the Scottish Tories at Holyrood, with a new party formed in its place, but also welcoming Lib Dems and moderate Labour politicians.
It follows a sensational week in which Miss Davidson quit as leader of the Scottish Conservatives and Boris Johnson unveiled plans to prorogue Parliament.
The planned suspension of the House of Commons led Ms Sturgeon to boast that independence was ‘inevitable’. And with the continuing threat of a second referendum, Mr Tomkins is calling for a rethink of the relationship between Scotland’s pro-Union parties.
He also made it clear that, while he would not succeed Miss Davidson, he would not rule out leading a new party.
He outlined the possibility of a Better Together-style party, with the aim of not only killing off the threat of another independence
‘Threat of independence has not gone away’
referendum, but also forming a government in 2021.
He said: ‘It could be the Scottish Liberal Unionists. I quite like the name Enlightenment. But I’m not wedded to a name.’
He added: ‘Do I want to speak to people in Labour and the Lib Dems? Yes, of course I do.’
Under the proposal, Tory MSPs and councillors would join the new party but MPs from north of the Border would remain Conservatives. This would allow them to continue to strive for senior Cabinet posts and not be separated from English colleagues at Westminster.
Mr Tomkins said: ‘I don’t want us to become the DUP of Scotland.
‘I want future Scottish MPs to become Secretary of State for Defence, for example. But we would have a separate party for Holyrood and local government.’
An alternative would be an election pact, where Tories, Labour and Lib Dems would not contest constituencies but leave them to the party which is best placed to beat the SNP.
Mr Tomkins said: ‘Political parties should be expected to think creatively and tactically about election systems. This should not be taboo.’
Jackson Carlaw, interim leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has warned that now is not the time to consider breaking away from the UK party. But other senior sources say a majority are in favour of seriously considering it.
They will meet in the coming days to discuss it further.
It is understood that some already back Mr Tomkins’s proposals.
He believes the coming months should be used to think creatively, not just about the future of the Scottish Conservatives, but also the wider cause of saving the Union.
He said: ‘The threat of independence has not gone away.
‘Things may change – and Alex Salmond’s forthcoming trial may blow Scottish politics out of the water – but at this distance the next Holyrood election, in May 2021, looks as though it will be a referendum on a referendum.
‘Vote SNP to get a second independence referendum. Vote other14 wise to stop it. So here’s the question I want to focus on, in this interim period. Is our set-up the right one to ensure that there is a pro-UK majority of MSPs after 2021?
‘Or do we need to use Ruth’s departure as an opportunity now to reshape, to restructure and to redirect Scottish politics so that, after years of the SNP grievance machine, we can finally move on and elect a group of politicians who genuinely want to govern, and whose focus will be jobs, wages, the economy, schools, hospitals?’
Last night, a No 10 source made clear that the Prime Minister would not welcome a breakaway party.
They said: ‘The Conservative party has no borders in the UK.
‘We’re a party for Scotland, as we are for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is a Prime Minister for the Union, and a leader of the Conservative party for the whole of the UK.’
However, Scottish Tories who back the idea of a new party believe the Prime Minister will be won round if it delivers more Scottish Conservative MPs. They expect a new leader will not be announced until the New Year anyway, meaning Mr Carlaw would lead the party in any General Election.
That gives them time to decide on whether to break away or not before the leadership battle.
One senior source admitted: ‘There’s no Ruth Davidson Mark II waiting in the wings. Whoever takes over is not going to match Ruth’s profile and wider appeal.
‘Therefore the question is, do we carry on as a party, or do we do something different?’
He added: ‘People in Scotland would still vote for MPs to serve in a UK Government. But in Holyrood there would be a different strand, a different name.
‘That happened in Quebec and is one reason why the people of Quebec have turned against the separatists.’
‘Expected to think creatively and tactically’