Tory infighting reaches north of the border

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   By a Newsnet reporter

The Tories have ‘nothing positive to offer Scotland’, the SNP has said, as Tory infighting reaches north of the border, echoing the infighting which blights the party in the House of Commons.

With the Tories at Westminster lurching from crisis to crisis in recent weeks, Saturday’s Times newspaper carries quotes from senior Conservatives in Scotland expressing concerns about the performance of Scottish leader Ruth Davidson, who has failed to make any headway in the Tories’ dire poll ratings after almost two years as leader.

According to the Times “a sizeable chunk” of the 15 Conservative MSPs have complained to the newspaper that Ms Davidson has failed to come up with a strategy to revive the fortunes of the ailing party in Scotland and claim that she is presiding over a directionless party.

It is understood that disatisfaction with Ms Davidson’s poor performances at First Minister’s Questions have brought tensions within the party into the open. 

Fellow Conservatives were shocked recently when Ms Davidson gave First Minister Alex Salmond an open goal when she attempted to question him on the SNP’s policy towards the EU, giving Mr Salmond the opportunity to mock Prime Minister David Cameron’s difficulties over an EU referendum and the open rebellion on the EU amongst a large segment of Conservative backbenchers.

One MSP complained to the paper that Ms Davidson was regularly ridiculed by the SNP.  The senior Conservative said:  “There has been ridicule. As soon as she gets up, the whole front of the SNP turn round and start to goad her.”

Ms Davidson’s performance this week also shocked Conservative colleagues, who were unimpressed by what they termed her “scattergun” approach, and her inappropriate and apparently ageist comments about the “nonagenarian” Denis Healey.

It is understood that fewer than half of the 15-strong parliamentary group bothers to turn up for Ms Davidson’s weekly Conservative group meeting at Holyrood. The Times reports that there is “deep, deep frustration” with Ms Davidson’s leadership amongst both Conservative MSPs and the party’s dwindling band of grassroots supporters.

The most serious complaint from Tory MSPs is that apart from 3 set-piece speeches on the Constitution, Ms Davidson has not made any significant political statements during her period in office.  Even these speeches have come under criticism from fellow Conservatives, as Ms Davidson has done a complete U-turn on her pledge to resist further devolution, and is now apparently prepared to consider further powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Commenting, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said:

“The Tories need to stop fighting amongst themselves and focus on what’s important- such as reviving the economy which is flatlining under their watch.

“There have been eruptions in the south and now the aftershocks have come to Scotland. It’s hardly surprising for a party which takes their lead from London.

“This week, while she questioned the economics of an independent Scotland, her approach was seen as ‘scattergun’ and she made an ageist remark about the ‘nonagenarian’ former Chancellor Denis Healey – who revealed the UK Government fiddled oil revenue figures in the 1970s due to the possibility of independence.

“The Tories are proving once again that they just don’t have anything positive to offer Scotland and are more interested in themselves- no wonder voters continue to reject them in Scotland.”