As reported in the Scotsman today, the review by the committee, headed by Lord Sanderson, on the failure by the Conservative Party, to achieve electoral success in Scotland at the general election, has now been published. The report will be regarded with keen interest by Northern Ireland Conservatives, as they look to make comparisons with the failure of UCUNF campaign in Northern Ireland.
According to the BBC, the review has recommended a “major overhaul.”
“significant weaknesses” in the party’s decision-making structure need to be tackled and more full-time staff taken on, including a chief policy adviser”
“The consistent themes in the many submissions we received were of a need for clarity of leadership, a distinctive Scottish identity, a welcoming and broader party, increased decentralisation of the party structure and the empowerment of the members.”
The report recommends the creation of a new Scottish Party leader, who need not necessarily be same person as the leader of the Conservative MSP group in Holyrood.
The report also recommends the creation of a post of Scottish Conservative Party leader. The present position is that Annabelle Goldie is merely the leader of the Scottish Conservative group in Holyrood.
The report provides some acknowledgement that the Conservative brand North of the Border is toxic in the sense that it is anti-Scottish. The Scotsman says:
“The review lays out the Scottish party’s problems with brutal honesty, noting how polling shows Scots remain unclear about “what the Scottish Conservatives stand for”, except that they still consider the party to be “anti-Scottish”
According to the BBC, this ‘anti-Scottish perceptions originates from the days of Margaret Thatcher (when the poll tax was introduced).
However, the report does not make any recommendation to change the party’s branding. According to a report by STV:
“The Commission also said there was no need for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party to change its name, stating: “The problem is not the party’s name or logo, but its failure to convey clearly and consistently what it believes in and stands for.”
Clearly then, the review implies that the perception that the Conservatives are ‘anti-Scottish’ can be changed by conventional campaigning. With respect to the Sanderson committee, the Party has been trying to change that perception, without success, for the last 20 years. Having a Scottish Conservative leader is only tinkering with this problem. Scots will rightly conclude that such a leader is still a puppet of the London Party.
It is regrettable that the committee has not fully ‘grasped the nettle’ of toxicity. For Northern Irish Conservatives who want to see a new Independent party, this effectively indicates that there will be no change of the position here for the next few years, at least.