Scottish Conservatives new leader savaged by ex-party member

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By Bob Duncan
 
A former member of the Scottish Conservative party who was forced from the party’s Glasgow list days before the Holyrood elections, in order to make way for novice candidate Ruth Davidson, has launched an attack on the party in Scotland calling it ‘corrupt’.
 
Malcolm Macaskill described the Conservative party in Scotland as “rotten to the core” and claimed that his replacement on the list, Ruth Davidson who is now the party leader in Scotland, lacked experience and had damaged her authority with ill judged comments.

Macaskill, who has been a member of the Scottish Tories for 35 years, was top of the party’s Glasgow list for last year’s Holyrood poll – almost guaranteeing him a seat in Parliament.  However, days before the start of the campaign, Tory party bosses removed him from the list amid allegations of historical financial problems.
 
Davidson took his place on the list and was subsequently elected to Holyrood and then as party leader.
 
After the election, Macaskill served notice on Davidson that he intended to seek a judicial review of his dismissal, and claimed the meeting which led to his removal did not have the quorate number of officials present to make the ruling.  He also insisted party rules did not contain any provision to remove a list candidate, therefore he believed the party had acted unconstitutionally.

The Cambuslang businessman – who has met the last three Conservative Prime Ministers – made the announcement that he would be leaving last week.  And he has now slammed the party hierarchy, saying he has been left “totally disillusioned” with the Scottish Conservatives.
 
Although Macaskill had been pursuing the party for an apology, it is believed the Conservatives gave him a five-figure sum as an out-of-court agreement earlier this year.
 
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Macaskill said of the resolution: “I regret that I am unable to confirm or deny if such an agreement exists.”
 
However, he confirmed that he had recently quit the party. He said: “All I ever wanted from the party was an apology. An admission that they were wrong in dismissing me and that they had on this occasion failed to follow their own procedures. This was never forthcoming.
 
“After discussions with my family, friends and legal team, I decided not to go to the Court of Session. This decision was made because I have now decided that I’ve had enough of the Tory Party.”
 
He said of his experience: “Over the past year, the treatment that I have been subjected to, along with the evidence that I have gathered, has convinced me that the party machine in and around Edinburgh central office is rotten to the core.
 
“I no longer wish to remain a member of such an inept and morally corrupt organisation.”

The removal of Mr Macaskill from the list sparked outrage among the local association, which has subsequently suffered a massive loss in members.  Membership of the local association peaked at over 160, many of whom were persuaded to join in support of Mr Macaskill.

Mr Macaskill announced his decision to quit on social networking site, Twitter.

He told his followers: “Today I resigned my membership of the Tory Party thus ending a 35-year allegiance. ‘Enough, no more. Tis not so sweet now as it was before!’”

Allan Kenneth, secretary of the Rutherglen and Hamilton West Conservative and Unionist Association, said Mr Macaskill would be a massive loss to the party.  He said: “We feel he’s been badly treated by the party.  He has been a stalwart for the Conservatives and we will miss him.”

The loss of such a high-profile member amid claims that the party is “rotten” and “corrupt” will come as a blow to the Tories.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “The party would prefer not to comment on individual cases.”

Macaskill was scathing of Davidson’s leadership, saying her comments about drawing a “line in the sand” over devolved powers to Holyrood had damaged her position.  Prime Minister David Cameron later appeared to contradict the novice leader by suggesting more powers could be devolved.
 
“It remains to be seen how she will fare as leader.  Early signs are not promising.  The ‘line in the sand’ contradiction from David Cameron was embarrassing and severely undermined her authority.” said Macaskill.
 
“I can’t help but feel that the leadership role requires greater experience and that it may have been better suited to any one of the other three candidates.”
 
On the fact his removal saw Davidson get top place on the Glasgow list, he said: “Some have suggested that there was perhaps always a greater plan.  In dismissing me, the next in line on the regional list was Ruth Davidson, who had earlier failed to be selected as a constituency candidate in other parts of Scotland.
 
“History shows that not only was Ruth elected in my stead, but she also went on to become the party leader in Scotland.”
 
He added that he did not foresee a successful future for the party: “I know of hundreds of people who will never vote Tory again.”
 
During her campaign for the Scottish Tory leadership, Ms Davidson was accused of using the party member email lists to contact potential voters.  In addition, the party’s spin doctor, Ramsay Jones, was suspended after attending a meeting of campaign strategists at Ms Davidson’s Glasgow home.

Her campaign also led to fines being imposed by the Electoral Commission after donations she received were not formally declared within the regulation time period.

Last April, Stirling’s SNP group slated Ms Davidson following an appearance on BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Good Morning Scotland’ when she blundered by claiming the Conservatives were part of Stirling’s council administration.  She said: “We think that there are areas in which local councils can make a difference, for example in Stirling we are part of the administration.”

The Conservatives have four out of 22 councillors in Stirling, which has been overseen by a minority SNP administration since 2008.

Ms Davidson also caused embarrassment for the Tories ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Scotland last February by supporting the use of the pound in an independent Scotland, directly contradicting briefings by her Westminster colleagues.

In comments made in the Sunday Post, the Scottish Tory leader “seized on” a YouGov poll showing that a large majority of Scots favour Scotland continuing to use the pound.  However the poll in question was about an independent Scotland continuing to use sterling – matching SNP policy – and also showed that there was support across the UK for an independent Scotland to use sterling.

As SNP MSP John Mason, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee, said at the time: “Ruth Davidson has now created even more confusion in the ranks of the anti-independence parties by endorsing the SNP’s policy for sterling.  Sources at Westminster have briefed that Scotland wouldn’t be able to use the pound, followed by Michael Moore conceding we would. 

“Now Ruth Davidson backs sterling as the answer to the poll question ‘Which of the following do you think would be best for an Independent Scotland?’. Just what is the position of the Tory party on this?”

A few weeks earlier, amid attempts by the anti-independence parties to claim that the Scottish Government could not be trusted to propose a fair and straightforward question in the independence referendum, when First Minister Alex Salmond revealed the question to Holyrood, Ms Davidson reponded that it was “a fair and decisive legal question, which I welcome.”

Ms Davidson’s statement seriously undermined attempts by the Conservatives in Westminster to claim that the question is biased and unfair.

Bob Doris, SNP MSP for Glasgow, said: “The Tories don’t know if they are coming or going when it comes to Scotland.  No wonder Mr Macaskill has walked out on them. You might think it wasn’t possible for the Tories to sink any further but that is exactly what is happening here.”
 
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, a spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “The position of the party remains that Mr Macaskill was not a fit and proper person to be a Conservative candidate. He had failed to disclose a succession of business failures to the party and when these were discovered the party took action.
 
“Given the proximity of the decision to the Scottish Parliamentary elections the party accepts that Mr Macaskill sought legal advice and the party, as a gesture of goodwill, contributed to these costs.”
 
Macaskill has denied failing to reveal his “business failures” to the party.