A New Dawn

The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party is the official party of opposition in the Scottish Parliament. Let’s start there.


The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party is the official party of opposition in the Scottish Parliament. Let’s start there. It means that Ruth Davidson will kick off proceedings each Thursday when she rises first to interrogate the First Minister. And when the FM has answered, Ruth will rise again, and again, as is her entitlement as leader of the second largest party in the Parliament. Only then will questions move on to the smaller parties.

There are now 31 Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament, four more MSPs than John Swinney’s SNP achieved back in 2003. Three quarters of the Tory group are first time parliamentarians. They may be fresh-faced, but they have been through a serious campaign and they bring a wealth of experience: farmers and lawyers, councillors and professors, referees and Olympians, soldiers and accountants, food retailers and food recyclers. 

#WeAreThe31 will bring change to Holyrood. They will need a second storey in the MSP block to house them all for a start! More importantly the 31 deprive the SNP of their majority, pulling the SNP seat tally down below that all important 65 seat threshold, and that has serious consequences. First of all, the SNP lose their automatic majority on every committee in the Parliament. No more discussions curtailed, votes stacked, half-baked legislation nodded on its way. Now there will be scrutiny. Bad ideas will not become bad law.

Much will depend upon the new Presiding Officer. By rights, it’s Labour’s turn. Indeed it should have been their turn the last time, but the SNP wanted an SNP MSP to oversee the independence referendum. The outgoing PO left undone a raft of reforms, which the SNP majority just wouldn’t support. Someone has to take them forward. Reform is long overdue. I’m not sure the Labour Party can spare one of their rank. Time for a Tory to step up to the bat? Isn’t it always?

And what of the campaign? Allow me a few personal observations.

I had a slightly odd encounter with (now) ex-MSP Christian Allard of the SNP. I had been out canvassing with Alexander Burnett (MSP) in Westhill and we had retired to a pub for lunch. Mr Allard, similarly minded, had gravitated to the same watering hole. Needless to say a conversation was struck up. Mr Allard declared that the Tories may have lots of signs in the fields of Aberdeenshire, but ‘the fields don’t vote.’ I agreed (I’ve heard it before), but noted that while the fields may not vote, the farmers do, and so do their families, and all those who depend upon the farmer for their well being. And given the hash made of the farm payments by SNP farm minister Richard Lochhead, they certainly weren’t voting SNP. So it proved. The swing from SNP to Conservative in rural constituencies averaged 15%. I’m calling it ‘The Lochhead Effect.’

When I was out in Glasgow a few weeks back I was struck by several things. First, there was a serious team thing going on; the candidates were in it together and they campaigned together and they partied together too! It paid off, because, second, two smart Tories have been elected: Adam Tomkins and Annie Wells. You will hear much more of them in the future of that I am certain.

John Lamont is a force of nature. Enough said.

The coldest high street in Scotland? There is competition. Stranraer is up there. The sun may have been shining upon Fin Carson (MSP) but by Jings it was nippy.  Forres may have been bathed in sunshine, and Douglas Ross (MSP) lit by an ethereal light but the wind whistling round my ankles was something else. However the winner is Aberdeen’s Union St, for there all seasons were there to be found: rain and hail, snow and sleet, sunshine and cloud, and that was just while we assembled the gazebo. The fact that our troop had a far better response and handed out far more leaflets than the neighbouring Nats may also have something to do with it topping my list. Well done Ross Thomson and Liam Kerr (MSPs).

The trickiest high street to find a Tory was Inverness. Wandering the thoroughfare with Edward Mountain (MSP) was challenge because locals were hard to come by; everyone was a tourist.

Let me close with a few words about Ruth. She is nearly my local MSP. Her constituency starts on the other side of my street. As the results were rolling in, someone in team Tory texted me that it was close. I was sitting next to Bernard Ponsonby at the time and showed him the message. I texted back, ‘How close?’ Messages shuttled back and forth, some saying Ruth had it, others that she had just lost it. Then a message came through from an old friend. Ruth had won Edinburgh Central. From fourth place to first. That was my election highlight. I have a suspicion that I wasn’t alone.

My final anecdote from election night. I was shuttling between the BBC and STV studios. Given that most Tories were standing for election it was me, Mary Scanlon, Andrew Dunlop and Struan fronting the shows. I was to relieve Annabel Goldie from her stint alongside Bernard P. As ever with Lady Goldie there was a big hug and a hearty, ‘Well done, my boy!’   I love Annabel, she makes me feel like a youngster! I settled myself alongside Bernard, lining up my tie with the piece of tape on the desk, when my neighbour, Alex Salmond asked me to sit back a bit because, ‘Bernard couldn’t see him.’ I remember thinking, get used to it mate, there are going to be plenty of Tories in your way from here on in!

And now, to Strasbourg...