Ruth Davidson asked to clarify role of adviser in anti-independence campaign

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By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP have called upon Scottish Conservative leader to explain and clarify the role to be played by London-based arch-Thatcherite lobbyist Andrew Dunlop in the anti-independence campaign.  Last month, Mr Dunlop, who is also a Conservative councillor in West Sussex, was employed by David Cameron as his special adviser in the Conservative campaign to defeat Scottish independence.

The appointment of Mr Dunlop as the Prime Minister’s right-hand man in the anti-independence campaign raised concern in Scotland after it emerged that in the late 1980s Mr Dunlop was a special adviser on Scotland and taxation to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  This was at the time that the poll tax was introduced although Mr Dunlop categorically denies that he was involved in devising the policy or implementing it. 

Although born and educated in Scotland, Mr Dunlop has lived in the south east of England since the early 1980s.  As well as his post in the Prime Minister’s office, he is also a Conservative councillor in West Sussex.  He has a long association with the Thatcherite wing of the Conservative party

Mr Dunlop was a trustee of disgraced former defence minister and Thatcher acolyte Liam Fox’s “Atlantic Bridge” organisation until it was stripped of its charitable status by the Charity Commission, following revelations that it was nothing more than a nakedly political pro-Thatcherite pressure and lobbying group.  

Senior SNP backbencher Stewart Maxwell MSP has now written to the Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, to ask if Mr Dunlop’s involvement in her new “Friends of the Union” campaign means that the Scottish electorate can expect other Thatcherite policies to be brought forward.

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

“Given Mr Dunlop has been brought in with a special remit to help defeat independence presumably he is involved in the new ‘Friends of the Union’ campaign that Ruth Davidson is set to launch next weekend.

“Ms Davidson should surely realise that it is a blunder of catastrophic proportions to have one of the creators of the poll tax at the heart of her new campaign, as it reminds the Scottish electorate of the damage that has been inflicted by Tory rule from Westminster.

“This just shows you can’t trust the Tories.  Given half a chance they will put Scotland’s future in the hands of those who were at the heart of the Thatcher government which was hell bent on destroying Scotland.

“Ruth Davidson should also be concerned that instead of relying on herself and the Scottish Conservative party to advise him on Scotland, Prime Minister David Cameron is instead relying on a Thatcherite adviser based in the South East of England.  It is unclear why they think that will help boost support for the union – it will do the opposite.

“I have now written to Ms Davidson to seek assurance that despite Mr Dunlop’s involvement, her new campaign will not include any policies such as the discredited poll tax.”

Text of letter from Stewart Maxwell MSP to Ruth Davidson MSP:

Dear Ruth,

As you are no doubt aware Mr Andrew Dunlop has been recruited by Prime Minister David Cameron to advise on Scottish affairs.  Given Mr Dunlop has been brought in with a “special remit to help defeat independence” – according to media reports – presumably he is involved in your new “Friends of the Union” campaign set to launch next weekend.

From weekend media reports it also appears that Mr Dunlop was involved in the introduction of the poll tax, and thus I would appreciate an assurance that despite Mr Dunlop’s involvement in your new campaign, the Conservatives will not try to impose any policies such as the discredited poll tax on the people of Scotland.

Kind Regards,

Stewart Maxwell MSP