By a Newsnet reporter
After a calamitous week for the Conservatives, a row has broken out over claims by disgraced former Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas that the Conservatives are campaigning against Scottish independence in order to get a good deal for England.
Mr Cruddas, who hurried resigned last weekend after the Sunday Times released video of him apparently offering potential business donors secret meetings with David Cameron in return for cash, even suggests that the Conservatives may be faking their support for the Union in order to position themselves in readiness for negotiation in the event that Scots vote Yes in the referendum.
In the latest release of tapes by the newspaper, Mr Cruddas is heard telling undercover reporters posing as potential donors: “[David Cameron] told me that he wants to fight to keep the union … he told me that was, those were his true feelings, however, even if they’re not, we, as a party, have to be seen to be fighting to keep the Union together.
“Even if we don’t agree with it, because at the end of it all, if the Scots say we’re out of here and they want to go independent, we can turn around and say it’s not what we wanted, it’s not what we campaigned for, you can’t have this, you can’t have that, and you can get on with it.”
In the video, Mr Cruddas describes Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond as “the mad Scotsman”.
Mr Cruddas’ remarks echo those of former Conservative Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth, who last week admitted in a radio interview on BBC 4 radio that the Conservatives were on the back foot in the independence debate because most Government ministers know more about the south of France than they do about Scotland. Mr Forsyth also made it clear that an increasing number of Conservative MPs no longer support the Union.
Mr Forsyth said: “What alarms me is that when I got into the House of Commons in 1983 almost every Tory supported the Union and was committed to it. Now I find Conservative MPs saying in increasing numbers ‘Why do we need Scotland?’ and abandoning the Unionist position.”
The SNP described the latest footage of Mr Cruddas to be released by the Sunday Times as a “bombshell” for the “irrelevant” Scottish Conservatives, and said the comments demonstrated that the Conservative leadership in London is already resigned to losing the referendum.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This is another bombshell for the Scottish Tories, who are isolated and irrelevant in the games being played by their London bosses.
“It shows that senior Tories in London are cynically faking their opposition to independence to position themselves for a post-independence deal.
“The Cruddas revelations show that they believe in nothing except protecting Westminster interests. Their claims about winning the referendum are exposed as mere bravado. In fact they are already preparing for losing.
“After a rich man’s budget, a petrol panic and now the exposure of their true feelings towards Scotland, the last Tory would be as well turning in their membership card now.”
A spokesperson for the First Minister said: “This transcript directly contradicts the Prime Minister’s spokesperson’s account of his conversations with Peter Cruddas. His appointee as Tory treasurer is on tape displaying his contempt for Scotland and our parliament and directly implicates the Prime Minister in that attitude.
“The First Minister believes that Prime Minister owes Scotland a full and detailed explanation of the Cruddas revelations. He will demand one.”