Over the years most of us have thought of Alex Salmond’s SNP as being essentially a party of the left which may, in part, explain why it has taken such hard work for it to get into power. If it is genuinely a party of the left then it has had its work of getting into power cut out by having to compete with another party of the left.
Yet if one thinks about it, the grander aspirations of the SNP that foresee a Scotland with a Tiger economy being one of the richest nation states of Europe suggest an approach that has more to do with Toryism than Socialism.
For sure, Salmond is happy to exist like a pilot fish on a shark, feeding off the scraps that the statist, corporatist entity that Scotland, with its benefit and public sector job junkie economy, has become whilst he tries to drive Scotland down the road to independence. That is because he understands only too well the limits of his power (however skilful he has become at making the most of that power) within the devolutionary settlement and the money he gets from a hostile government in Whitehall. But has Annabel Goldie of the Scots Tories perhaps worked out a way back for Conservatism in Scotland?
This report in The Scotsman provides some food for thought in that regard. Perhaps she thinks that, by co-operating on a measure-by-measure basis, she can teach Salmond the virtues of traditional Tory policies and is also, as is suggested, trying to position her party for the day when the Tories become the party of government in the UK but remain small in Scotland, where, of course, they have gone from considerable strength to oblivion in a generation. If she has forged a path of co-operation now, then this may well contribute firstly to the detoxification of the Tory brand in Scotland and secondly to the fact of being a Tory becoming a respectable thing once more.
And if Cameron comes to power in the UK as a whole, he might well find it congenial to have a governing party in Scotland that is far from hostile to the general thrust of his policies (agreeing to differ, naturally, on the issue of independence) upon which he might rely for some support in the Lobbies in due course. This in turn may well lead to the Scottish Tories to benefit from a more free-market economy approach by Scots.
The only glitch is the Scottish Tory opposition to an independence referendum. This, I am afraid, sits uneasily with the party’s demand for a referendum on the EU Constitution and by facing in diametrically opposite directions on the two referenda opens the party to a charge of hypocrisy. It would be far better to espouse such a referendum and to help it to be held as soon as possible when that particular nationalist Fox can be shot forthwith leaving the parties to settle down to the real business of making Scotland more prosperous. And a more prosperous Scotland might prise Scots away from their long-term allegiances to Labour and Liberal ‘Democrats’.
Remember that the SNP have in the past been known as the “Tartan Tories” and one begins to think this sea-change is not impossible to achieve.