The future for Scottish conservatism?


It is always worth reading Matthew Parris, even when one disagrees with his conclusions. So every conservative politician in Scotland and England should read his most recent column. Do the Tories want to be on the winning or losing side of history? All precedent suggests the latter, but there may be hope...

If a people are treated like children, we must not be surprised if their politicians do not always play politics like grown-ups. Until a people start visualising themselves as a country — not just in the realms of the patriotic imagination, but at the practical level of tax, law and administration — there will of course be a romantic unrealism, and a negativism too, in the attitudes they strike.

But rather than bewail its aggression or pick at its obvious inconsistencies, we Conservatives should consider the possibility that separatist politics in Scotland appeals to something real and deep in the electorate: a need that cannot be answered by scorn, or wished away.

If we sense this, we must ask ourselves a second question: can Conservatives, consistently with our own principles, try to answer this need in a way that reconciles it with our own hopes for Britain? I think the answer to both questions is “yes”. A Conservative vision of the Union could be of a deep and permanent alliance of equal nations within a common economy, each with the dignity of self-government, each raising taxes for what they did alone, and sharing taxes for what they did together. The disparities in population between England and Scotland will be fatal to this structure only if we want them to be. Other federations and unions take such problems in their stride.