Thatcher aide is Cameron’s adviser on Scotland


By a Newsnet reporter

Last month David Cameron appointed Andrew Dunlop as his new adviser on Scotland.  Mr Dunlop was hurriedly given the job in order to bolster the Conservatives’ ailing campaign against Scottish independence.  Andrew Dunlop is well-known in Conservative circles for his lobbying work for right wing pressure groups and think tanks.

However the appointment of Mr Dunlop may backfire on the Prime Minister’s office, which again finds itself open to the charge that Mr Cameron has a deaf ear to Scottish sensibilities and no understanding of Scotland.  The Sunday Express has revealed that Mr Dunlop was a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher.  

At the time the poll tax was introduced, Mr Dunlop was a member of Mrs Thatcher’s inner circle of advisers, in charge of policy on taxation and Scotland.  He would have been closely involved in the decision to introduce the tax one year earlier in Scotland than in the rest of the UK.  

Although born and educated in Scotland, Mr Dunlop has lived in the south of England since the early 80s.  After leaving his post as an adviser to Mrs Thatcher, he founded the lobbying company Politics International, now known as Interel Consulting.  He retired from the company in 2010 to concentrate on his political work.  As well as his post as an adviser to the Prime Minister, Mr Dunlop is also a Conservative councillor in West Sussex.  

Mr Dunlop has a long and close association with the Thatcherite wing of the Conservative party.  He was a trustee of the Atlantic Bridge thinktank which was set up by the discredited Liam Fox MP, another acolyte of Mrs Thatcher, obstensibly to promote UK-American relations.  The Charity Commission stripped Atlantic Bridge of its charitable status in 2011 after it came to light that the organisation was a nakedly political pressure group promoting a right wing Thatcherite agenda.

After Mr Dunlop’s appointment to the Prime Minister’s office last month, the millionaire West Sussex councillor was forced to repay parking fees to the council after it emerged that he had been using his council parking pass to avoid paying parking charges when he left his car at the train station to travel to work in Downing Street.  The council pass should only be used when a councillor is on official council business.  Car parking charges are a hugely controversial issue locally, as the Conservative council has continued to hike the charges irrespective of a tidal wave of public opposition.

Speaking to the local newspaper, the West Sussex County Times, Mr Dunlop said:  “When it was brought to my attention by a council officer that car passes should only be used exclusively on council business, I immediately refrained from using this car park.  I apologise unreservedly for any inappropriate use of the pass. I will of course make good any loss that the Council has suffered as a result.”

SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell commented on the reports about Mr Dunlop, but says that bigger questions about his past must be answered.

Mr Maxwell said it was “disappointing if not totally unsurprising” for a Tory to be misusing public spaces but said there were more important issues about Mr Dunlop’s appointment.

Mr Maxwell, MSP for West of Scotland and member of The Scotland Bill Committee, added:

“Questions must be asked on what role a young Mr Dunlop – a policy adviser to Thatcher in tax reform and Scotland the late 1980s – had in the implantation of the Poll Tax to Scotland.

“It is also interesting to note that the Prime Minister has employed a so called expert on Scotland who lives in the South East of England.

“This must be another blow for Ruth Davidson and the Tories in Scotland who are becoming more removed and out of sync with their task-masters in London every passing week.

“The people of Scotland deserve transparent politicians who respect and care about Scotland, not people who lack respect for public spaces and don’t even live in the country they hope to rule over.

“Cameron’s new Thatcherite appointment will result in even more people in Scotland opting for home rule with independence rather than Tory Westminster rule.”

The Conservatives later issued a denial that Mr Dunlop had any role in the Poll Tax whilst he was employed as an adviser to Mrs Thatcher.