By a Newsnet reporter
Peter de Vink, a veteran Midlothian Conservative councillor, has been deselected by the party after hosting a lunch for First Minister Alex Salmond at Edinburgh’s New Club, and saying independence is inevitable. Mr de Vink held the lunch so that the First Minister could be confronted by some of his critics, but after the event he was told by senior Conservatives that he could no longer be a candidate for the party.
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Mr de Vink said that the Scottish Conservatives must become “more realistic” about independence, and develop a strategy for the party should Scotland vote for independence in the referendum. However he complained that instead the party leadership was attempting to shut down debate. He fiercely criticised party leader Ruth Davidson for being “so out of her depth, it’s just a laugh”.
Mr de Vink said: “Here’s the party that stands for independence of views, freedom of speech, freedom of action, and yet we are so intolerant when it comes to this. They look complete plonkers. They look so inept. Ruth Davidson, she is so out of her depth it’s just a laugh.”
Describing how he was driven out of the Conservatives, Mr de Vink wrote in the Sunday Herald:
“In the invitation to the lunch I said I had come to the conclusion that independence was actually a very attractive option for Scotland.
“Some people sent that to their friends in the higher ranks of the Tory party and they accused me of running with the hare and chasing with the hounds. I said, ‘Bollocks, this is a local election, nothing to do with independence’, but they said No. So I became a victim of the cabal … They said I have to be a unionist to be a Conservative, which I think is barking mad.
“The Tory party is painting itself in again by absolutely dismissing independence just as they dismissed devolution. Look at what a pathetic party it has become, with one member of parliament at Westminster. I call that pathetic … always hankering back to the past. Why not look to the future?”
The veteran Conservative says that the party is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the 80s and 90s, when they opposed any form of devolution, a strategy which resulted in their electoral annihilation in the Westminster General Election of 1997. Michael Forsyth, the Conservative Scottish Secretary who masterminded the party’s catastrophe, is a leading supporter of Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson.
Writing in the Sunday Herald, Mr de Vink said: “I fear we are once again harking back to the old days where we draw a line in the sand on Scotland’s constitutional journey.
“The negative arguments of the current leadership will cause more Scots to support independence rather than vote against it, while leaving the party condemned to the pages of history.”
In 1988, Mr de Vink was a co-founder of the Tory party’s Scottish Business Group and has raised thousands of pounds for the party. However he now says he regrets raising so much cash for the party, saying he “hated to think about it”.
Mr de Vink said he was going public in order to launch his campaign as an independent candidate for Midlothian council, and to send a message to the Conservative party, saying:
“I am almost convinced beyond reasonable doubt that we will have independence and when it comes then we are going to have missed the boat. That’s my message.”
Responding to Mr de Vink’s comments, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said:
“This is yet more misery for Ruth Davidson as even a stalwart of her party has admitted he believes ‘the negative arguments of the current leadership will cause more Scots to support independence’.
“Peter de Vink also said this stance will leave the ‘party condemned to history’ – and described Ms Davidson as ‘so out of her depth’.
“It is disappointing to hear Ruth Davidson is presiding over a party that when a candidate, who has been faithful to the Tories since the 1970s, shows a difference of opinion, in this case supporting an independent Scotland, he is dismissed.
“Instead of taking this dismissive attitude, Ms Davidson should listen to Mr de Vink when he says an independent Scotland is ‘a very attractive option’ and get behind the growing support for Scotland to stand on its own two feet.
“News of this dismissal is the last thing the Scottish Tories needed – especially after Ms Davidson’s very short and uninspiring speech yesterday in which she failed to offer any new positive vision for our country.”