Tory independence good, Scots independence bad. Fraser to lead Tory ‘No’ campaign

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By a Newsnet reporter

Fresh from losing a party referendum on independence for the Scottish Conservatives, Murdo Fraser is now being tipped as new leader Ruth Davidson’s choice to head the party’s campaign against Scottish independence in the national referendum planned for the second half of this Parliament.

Mr Fraser does not wish to continue as deputy leader and is understood to want to return to the back-benches after his defeat in the bruising leadership campaign.  He is reportedly unwilling to serve as a front bench member of Ms Davidson’s new team, a sign that wounds within the party will be slow to heal.  Yesterday there were reports that senior collegues within the badly divided party regard Ms Davidson with suspicion and are waiting for her to prove herself.  

Speaking to the Herald newspaper, senior party figures said Ms Davidson is “on probation”, and that she has been warned to tone down the “we are the masters now” attitude expressed in the aftermath of her narrow victory.

During the first meeting of the parliamentary party under its new leader, Conservative MSPs reportedly sought reassurances from Ms Davidson that she and her supporters would not be seeking revenge.

Ms Davidson is understood to have offered the role of campaign chief of the party’s “no to independence” initiative to Mr Fraser.  Critics have pointed out that Mr Fraser will now be expected to explain to the Scottish people why they should not have independence, when he has spent the past few months explaining to Scottish Conservatives why it was vital that they had independence.  

During his leadership campaign Mr Fraser did not rule out supporting the transfer of powers over and above those contained in the Scotland Bill.  He will now find himself at the head of a campaign to persuade Scots why extra powers are now not required.  According to party leader David Cameron earlier this week, the powers contained within the Scotland Bill would “meet the demands of the Scottish people for more say over how Scotland is run”.  

SNP MSP Derek Mackay today said the Tories’ anti-independence campaign is  incoherent.  The SNP’s Business Convenor said:

“The fact Ruth Davidson wants a man who campaigned for independence from the UK for the Tories to lead the campaign against independence for the people of Scotland says it all about the state of the Tories in Scotland.

“Despite the fact Murdo wanted to break away from Westminster and bring more powers to Scotland, Ms Davidson thinks he is the best contender for the Tories’ campaign opposing independence for Scotland.

“Incoherence and muddle characterises the anti-independence efforts of the Unionist parties.

“This is yet another confusing step from the Tory party and continues Ms Davidson’s bad start as the new Conservative leader in Scotland.

“Instead of standing against the ambitions of the people of Scotland the Tories should look to the public’s appetite for more powers and a stronger Scottish Parliament.”