May 2008: Increasing Nationalist support in Scotland alerts and alarms Westminster and the US.
The Labour Party in Scotland was in meltdown and it was entirely possible a majority SNP government would be in place in 2011 which would bring with it calls for Scottish independence and a referendum.
There were also on-going problems within the Scottish Tory Party, which had suffered yet another bad election and voices within the Party raised the spectre of a split from Westminster control so that the Party in Scotland would be able to decide upon policy.
A strategy, designed to deal with the potential problems was rapidly evolved and put into action by Tory grandee Sir Malcolm Rifkind, other high ranking politicians and the Secret Service.
In a surprise move, former high ranking MI6 intelligence officer, Andrew Fulton whose last post was “head of station” in the MI6 office, in Washington was appointed Chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party by David Cameron replacing Peter Duncan who had stood down after the 2007 election.
The appointment of a senior intelligence officer to the post of Party Chairman, was viewed by many Scottish Tory supporters as a Westminster hatchet job with David Mundell at its core, pulling the strings.
Fulton, with extensive physical resources assistance and Mundell, applied himself and his team over a period of 18 months, to the task of completing a root and branch reorganisation of the party in Scotland, removing any person, (no matter how senior) who did not promise full compliance with the Westminster Party ideal.
He also designed and put in place a long term strategy, with the support of unionist supporting media and press outlets with the purpose of undermining the SNP government ensuring any referendum for independence would fail in the belief that the SNP would fall apart in the aftermath of a failure to gain independence.
2008: Tomkins has an Epiphany and Converts from Roundhead to cavalier
No longer having a need for his erstwhile political friends Tomkins abandoned the SSP and gave up his rejection of the Queen as head of state. Then, having hitched his reputation to the unionist cause.
All that remained to be decided was the political party to which he would commit his future.
After a period of flipping and flopping between Tory and Labour he finally opted to support the Tory Party.
Former colleague, SSP Leader, Colin Fox, who spoke alongside Tomkins at the 2004 Declaration of Independence, on Calton Hill, said: “He’s gone from Cromwell’s side to the Cavaliers.
He should be ashamed of giving up on democracy in favour of the divine right of kings and hereditary privileges. Although that does make him pretty much at home in the Tory Party.”
2009: House of Lords Constitution Committee contracts a special adviser
Tomkins was formally appointed adviser to the peers of the realm, Constitution Committee.
Not a bad result for a chap who firmly rejected the concept of majesty only a few short months before.
He also cultivated political alliances in Westminster providing political guidance in support of the Union as the UK constitution came under increasing scrutiny from nationalist activists.
His evidence on the sovereignty of Parliament was extensively cited in the House of Commons during the legislative passage of the European Union Bill (2010-11).
May 2010 – Tomkins – Protecting Individual Liberty
Tomkins based his defence of parliamentary democracy in his book: “Our Republican Constitution”.
In it he sought to persuade the reader that that a “Bill of Rights” and a “written constitution” would fail to provide effect in the way that the Westminster parliamentary democracy does.
Questions to be asked and answered:
1. With whom should power ultimately reside?
2. Should the Courts have the power to strike down Acts of Parliament that are incompatible with an individuals fundamental rights or should elected representatives have the final say on where the balance between liberty and security lies?
Believers in the judicial protection of human rights, would enhance the power of the Courts with a “Bill of Rights”, along with a “written constitution” that would, confine the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament to the dustbin of history.
But Tomkins presented a profound challenge to the belief that protection of liberty is best ensured by weakening the power of parliament in relation to the Courts, rather than strengthening the power of Parliament in relation to government. So the state is paramount thinks Tomkins.
Tomkins, a constitutional lawyer, was on the Smith Commission, and is currently an advisor to the Secretary of State for Scotland.
His selection by the Scottish Conservatives may be due to the Conservatives policy for a UK Bill of Rights. That requires the repeal of the Human Rights Act.
Although, the SNP are signatories to the Smith Agreement they say they would withhold legislative consent with regard to the Human Rights Act.
I don’t know what the other parties position is, but the Conservative plans for a UK Bill of Rights and the impact on the Human Rights Act in Scotland could play a big part in next years elections.
2010: The UK General Election
The election was held against the background of the world banking disaster.
The failure of the Labour government to bring greedy bankers to account.
A betrayal by politicians that had approved the banking bailout resulting in a financial deficit of nearly £1 trillion, repayment of which would imposed on every individual voter in the UK bringing with it the imposition of 20+ years of financial austerity and accompanying hardship on the electorate.
The bankers continued to enjoy unjustified benefits of obscene financial bonus schemes which exceeded the limits of reason or necessity.
The witnessing of 20-30 year old bankers swanning around london in flash new motors, spending wads of cash in nightclubs and purchasing ever more expensive houses was galling to the poorer members of society who had to struggle to survive saddled with an unfair monetary system driven by governments whose ideology was to get the financial debt down to sustainable levels whatever the consequence.
The foregoing resulted in a polarisation of voting driving voters back to the arms of the two parties capable of forming a government.
In Scotland this manifested in the traditional return of a large number of Labour MP’s who promised to fight for Scots in the Westminster parliament.
The fortunes of the Tory Party in Scotland did not improve, when it asked the Scottish electorate to support a manifesto formulated in Westminster containing nothing of note for Scotland’s economy.
The result was at odds with the rest of the UK where the Tory Party did well enough to join with the Liberals forming a UK government taking control for 5 years.
And the accompanying brutal austerity measures that were imposed by Cameron/ Osborne and the Liberals led by Clegg.
Blame for the poor performance of the Tory Party in Scotland fell upon Goldie, but in truth the damage was done by Thatcher who had dumped “one nation” Toryism a long time before turning it into a London and South East England party.
In the years that followed Thatchers demise the pattern intensified but the Tory Party in Scotland learned nothing and stumbled from crisis to crisis surviving on the electoral support of older voters.
These older voters expired over time but were never fully replaced resulting in the terminal decline of the party..
But Cameron snookered Goldie before the election, adding her to his cabinet, with result that she was bound by party rules to accept and implement Shadow Cabinet decisions.
In cabinet she advised, without success that a number of proposals contained in the manifesto were wrong for Scotland and rumours were circulated widely throughout the period of the campaign that Cameron and his advisors had scant regard for the abilities of Goldie and her team and moves were afoot to replace her regardless of the outcome of the election.
Goldie’s nemesis, Mundell, the sole Scottish Tory MP at Westminster, held on to his seat in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale by a whisker.
At interview he made a telling statement: “It wasn’t my intention five years ago to be the only Conservative MP in Scotland and it certainly wasn’t my intention tonight.
I’m not complacently brushing aside the fact that we haven’t made progress in the number of seats of Scotland, we haven’t and I accept that’s something we have to look at very seriously in the aftermath of this election.”
Cameron speedily commissioned the anticipated investigation (without reference to Goldie) into the poor performance of the party in Scotland and fully supported recommendations contained in the “Sanderson Report” which advised a radical leadership and party structure overhaul forming part of a battle plan implementation of which would improve its future electoral prospects.
Power would be transferred to a group of Thatcherite driven slick Young Turks in Glasgow University, (that place again) a number of whom would work out of Goldie’s office with immediate effect.
This included Ruth Davidson who had only recently returned to Scotland having failed to gain a seat in an English constituency.
The die had been cast against Goldie. Cameron’s long held plans for Scotland did not include her as leader of Scotland’s Tory Party.
The word “Union” was dropped from the Scottish Tory Party title. One wonders why!!!!
2010 – 2011: Scottish Tories strike back at Cameron and Westminster
The ever growing dysfunctional nature of relationships between Westminster and Scotland became public knowledge as the party in Scotland attempted to divorce itself from its London masters.
On at least two occasions, major policy decisions impacting Scotland were implemented by Conservative leaders in London in direct contradiction to Scottish Tory policy.
On both occasions sources said the Scottish branch had no idea what was going on before the decisions were taken and had no chance to influence policy direction.
A party insider said: “There is no communication between the party leadership in London and the leadership in Scotland.”
Before the election, Annabelle Goldie used to sit in the Shadow Cabinet. She doesn’t now. There is a Cabinet but she is not part of it. She has been cast adrift.”
The revelation that it had been cut loose by its parent body in London plunged the Tory Party in Scotland into a fresh crisis since from the time of the general election senior figures in the UK Conservative Party no longer consulted or communicated with their Scottish colleagues.
Scottish party leaders had been shut off from decision-making and were no longer invited to top-level strategy and policy meetings.
Indeed, the isolation of the Scottish branch reached scandalous levels when it was revealed Goldie had not spoken to David Cameron since the election. This when SNP First Minister Alex Salmond had five conversations with the Prime Minister since he took office.
Presented with a poisoned chalice to hold close to her chest the ever loyal Goldie put a brave face on the situation but admitted she had not spoken to the Prime Minister since the election, then denied there was any “disconnect” between the Scottish and London parties, insisting that she had a “line of communication” to No 10 which she could use at any time.
She said: “there is not a disconnect. We retain very good communications. I am in the position where I can communicate with him in his office any time I want and, obviously, I am not going to be on the phone every five minutes to the Prime Minister, he has an important job to do. The important thing is that I have a line to communication to him if I need to use it.”
She then emphasised that David Cameron had, at the 2010 general election taken on leadership of the Tory Party with his manifesto, not that of the Tory Party in Scotland.
The implication being: “It wasn’t my fault we only got one seat, it was David Cameron’s.” She also pointed out that the Tory vote in Scotland had increased over her time in office as leader citing a rise in the number of members, councillor’s and MSP’s as evidence of progress.
In issuing a statement critical of Cameron and his Westminster team Annabelle had effectively sealed her fate and Mundell, acting on instructions from Westminster orchestrated her removal from office ensuring the promotion of Ruth Davidson who had been waiting in the wings, (working out of Annabelle’s office for nearly a year.)
29 Mar 2011: Tory Party’s Holyrood election campaign in disarray
The gerrymandering of the party candidate list, orchestrated by the new party chairman, agent, Andrew Fulton was implemented with increasing haste forcing previously nominated individuals to step down.
One hopeful, David Meikle withdrew his nomination for the Rutherglen seat, in Glasgow because he was upset that his allegations of vote rigging on the list for Glasgow had not been investigated properly.
His complaints centred on the Conservative Rutherglen Association, whose membership shot up by around 150 members, from a starting point of 17 in the months before the selection of persons for the Conservative list in Glasgow.
Malcolm Macaskill, a Glasgow businessman, justice of the peace and a Tory of long standing in the West of Scotland was removed from the top of the Glasgow list and replaced by the former BBC journalist, Ruth Davidson a newcomer to the party with less than 2 years political experience.
Goldie admitted that she did not have any say in the deselection of MacAskill who subsequently resigned from the party and sued it.
But the Tory hierarchy in London, who were directing the changes were quoted to be “delighted” with the way it was being conducted.
Party Chairman, Fulton made no mention of the reason for McCasskill’s dismissal, merely saying he had been dropped “following discussions between the candidate and the party’s candidates’ board”.
The Tory leadership in London also insisted the budget for the 5 May 2011 Scottish election was in place despite many reports that wealthy donors, including former Dundee FC footballer and property magnate Tom Coakley and airport car park magnate John McGlynn, had withdrawn their party funding, protesting against the Westminster “putch”.
An SNP spokesman said it was the “worst possible” start to the Tory campaign, adding: “The first day and they have lost three of their top candidates, amid party infighting and internal allegations of malpractice. The Tories are not fit for purpose, fit for Glasgow, or fit for Scotland.”
May 2011: The Scottish General Election
Scottish politics was transformed when the SNP won a previously unthinkable overall majority in the Scottish parliament, taking 69 out of the 129 seats.
The impact of the victory was devasting for the three other political parties and resulted in the forced resignation of the Labour leader, the hapless Iain Gray, Tavish Scott, the discredited leader of the Lib/Dem’s and the gallant Annabel Goldie, despite her party doing better than Labour and the Lib Dems, losing only two of its 17 seats in the landslide SNP victory.
It was Goldie that had established a successful working relationship with Salmond during the SNP minority government the SNP, relied on the support of the Tories to pass their financial budgets, in return, Goldie was able to claim responsibility for ensuring shops and small businesses did not pay business rates, increasing frontline police numbers by 1,000 and reforming the drugs rehabilitation policy in Scotland, fuelling speculation of a power-sharing deal if the SNP had failed to win a majority.
In her resignation speech Goldie said “The Scottish election result was seismic. Nobody thought that the SNP would win an overall majority at Holyrood.
I am disappointed that the Conservatives are returning to the parliament with fewer MSPs than last time, but I am heartened by the observations of many independent commentators that our result was, by comparison to the other opposition parties, credible.
As a party I believe that we ran the right campaign. We focused on trying to maximise our votes on the regional list. Unlike others, we had a narrative of common sense, telling it like it is, and a record of delivering for Scotland. But being the least worst was, in the end, not good enough.”
The stage was set for a round of Party leadership contests.