Scottish Conservatives ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome’

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By a Newsnet reporter

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has come under renewed pressure to rethink her party’s strategy in Scotland after Murdo Fraser, who narrowly lost the party’s leadership election to Ms Davidson after their disastrous showing in the 2011 Scottish election, made a fresh call for the party to loosen its ties to the Conservatives south of the Border.

Writing in the Scotsman newspaper, Mr Fraser urged the party to embrace further powers for the Scottish Parliament in an attempt to make the Conservative more relevant to Scottish politics.

By a Newsnet reporter

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has come under renewed pressure to rethink her party’s strategy in Scotland after Murdo Fraser, who narrowly lost the party’s leadership election to Ms Davidson after their disastrous showing in the 2011 Scottish election, made a fresh call for the party to loosen its ties to the Conservatives south of the Border.

Writing in the Scotsman newspaper, Mr Fraser urged the party to embrace further powers for the Scottish Parliament in an attempt to make the Conservative more relevant to Scottish politics.

Mr Fraser characterised the Scottish Conservative strategy under Ms Davidson as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome”, and noted that Albert Einstein had reputedly said this was “the definition of insanity”.

During the party’s bitterly fought leadership election in 2011, Mr Fraser had argued that the Scottish Conservatives set themselves up as a different party, albeit in close alliance with the UK Conservative party, in order to present distinctively Scottish policies to the electorate.  

Mr Fraser also argued that the party, which was historically opposed to devolution and is reluctant to countenance any extension of powers for Scotland, must recognise the political realities of Scotland, where a clear majority of the population seek either greater devolution or independence.

However Ms Davidson campaigned for the leadership on a platform of continuing with established Conservative policies, and argued that these merely needed to be presented in a more energetic manner to the Scottish electorate.  Ms Davidson also described the provisions of the now-discredited Scotland Act as a “line in the sand”, and ruled out any consideration of extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament. 

Ms Davidson narrowly won the election, beating Mr Fraser by just 560 votes.  However since then the party has failed to make any political impact in Scotland, with opinion polls showing that it continues to attract the support of only a small minority of electors. 

In view of Ms Davidson’s failure to deliver her promised turnaround in Scottish Conservative fortunes, Mr Fraser used his article in the Scotsman to argue that the party may need to revisit his proposal for a distinctively Scottish centre-right party.

Although welcoming Ms Davidson’s announcement that the Scottish Conservatives have set up a panel to examine the devolution settlement, Mr Fraser expressed his fears that its recommendations will not deliver any real benefits to the party. 

Mr Fraser said the panel was chaired by Conservative grandee Lord Strathclyde, whom he noted is “no enthusiast for devolution”.  The former leadership contender also said that that this lack of enthusiasm is shared by many in the party leadership, and he expressed his doubt that the panel would produce anything of substance

Mr Fraser added that the party was “slow to learn the truth” about their electoral decline and appeared to be “trapped in a vicious cycle of declining electoral support” by repeatedly campaigning on policies which have been comprehensively rejected by Scottish voters. 

Mr Fraser’s intervention is likely to animate those in the party who are unhappy with Ms Davidson’s lacklustre leadership, and may lead to a fresh bout of political infighting within its ranks.

A Scottish Conservative spokesman denied that Ms Davidson’s leadership was an issue, and said:

“Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson’s Spring speeches on the constitution have been well received and the party is looking forward to next year’s referendum and the electoral tests in 2015 and 2016.”