How the Scottish Conservatives can seize the opportunity

Following the collapse of the SNP-Green coalition, former MP Ross Thomson argues this is a time for the Scottish Conservatives to offer a new vision for Scotland



In the wake of the fractious collapse of the SNP-Green coalition, the Scottish political landscape finds itself now ripe with opportunities.  

When Nicola Sturgeon signed the coalition deal, she let the Scottish Greens straight in through the front door of Bute House and put them at the heart of Government. It secured a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament and helped secure a legacy for Sturgeon herself. Most Scots, unaware of the Scottish Greens, looked at the odd-looking bunch of Green MSPs and they thought that they looked harmless. Awkward looking, but harmless. Little did they know that harmless looking things can in fact be very dangerous.  

In signing the Bute House Agreement Nicola Sturgeon empowered the Scottish Greens with an extraordinary amount of power and influence for a movement that only achieved 8% of the popular Scottish vote at the 2021 Holyrood election. She put at the heart of Government fringe views that belong more at the Edinburgh fringe than in the Scottish Government. Whether discredited gender ideology, that saw young kids pumped full of puberty blockers, or allowing convicted rapists into women’s prisons, these fringe issues consumed the Scottish Government, sucked the oxygen out of other, more important debates, and caused significant harm to the reputation of the Scottish Parliament. Humza Yousaf may have handled his divorce from the Greens badly, but he was right to ditch them. 

The last 17 years of SNP rule have created an era of big government control. The nationalists have centralised power in Edinburgh, stripped local councils of their autonomy, seized more of the pay-packets of hardworking Scots with higher taxes and handed a significant proportion of it to people who haven’t earned it. However, Scots are becoming more and more fatigued with the erosion of their individual freedom, the invasion of their privacy, and the constant introduction of more controls, regulations, and restrictions which hamper the economy. With the collapse of the SNP/Scottish Green coalition Government and the chaos that has ensued, Scots are understandably seeking change and a new direction. The people of Scotland are yearning for a genuine alternative – one that offers real change, not just a reshuffling of the same tired ideas.  

The Scottish Conservatives are the only party to consistently oppose these misguided laws. By holding the SNP to account, and forcing former First Minister Humza out of office, the Scottish Conservatives have proven themselves to be a party capable of offering an alternative and delivering needed change.   

To seize the opportunity to deliver this much needed change the Scottish Conservatives should heed the advice of Ronald Reagan, who during a speech to the 1976 Republican Convention said that the party should have a platform “that is a banner of bold, unmistakable colours, with no pastel shades.” He recognised then, as the Scottish Conservatives should recognise now, that voters are tired of having to decide between the lesser of two evils but instead are looking for a real alternative and a better choice. 

The Scottish Conservatives should give the Scottish people that choice, a “bold colours” choice of either more statist, big government, high tax, low economic growth nanny statism or principled, popular, conservative policies of freedom, low taxes, and free enterprise. Scottish Conservatives can demonstrate that the solution to our problems in Scotland are rooted in conservative principles.  

These principles emphasise the importance of individual liberty, limited government intervention, lower taxes, and free market economics. To tap into the desires of Scots looking for real change the Scottish Conservatives must prioritise economic freedom. They should stand for reducing taxes and regulations, empowering individuals, and businesses to thrive and innovate. They should demonstrate a clear commitment to fiscal responsibility, not outspending their opponents. Sound economic policies will not only stimulate growth but will also create jobs and opportunities for all Scots. 

In addition to economic freedom, the Scottish Conservatives must champion personal freedom in the face of big government. This means defending the rights of individuals to live their lives as they see fit, free from unnecessary government interference, free to eat what they want, drink what they want and even smoke if they want to without nanny state interference. Scottish Conservatives should be committed to protecting free speech, upholding parental rights in education, safeguarding personal privacy, and championing individual liberty. 

Scots have become too used to a big Scottish Government, interfering in every aspect of our lives. Interfering with our choices, interfering with our property, and interfering with the upbringing of our children. The Scottish Conservatives must offer a vision of limited Government – one that focuses on delivering essential services efficiently and effectively, without overreach or waste. Scottish Conservatives should seek to reduce bureaucracy and devolving power to local communities, they can ensure that government works for the people, not the other way around.  

The Scottish Conservatives must  embrace a message of optimism and opportunity. Our party should be presenting a positive vision for the future and offering conservative solutions to the challenges facing Scotland. Conservative principles are timeless. They aren’t locked in the 1980s. Although the challenges we face today are different, we can still apply the same principles that saw such enormous economic success. Although times change, principles endure. The Scottish Conservatives should wave a conservative banner of bold, unmistakable colours, with no pastel shades. 

Naturally, some both within and outwith the party will attack and criticise having such a robust approach, but I would urge Scottish Conservatives to not let that criticism deter them. You cannot mute your bold colours to please other people. Do not be afraid to be bold, stay bold and stick by the conservative principles that make you who you are, one day even your opponents will respect you for it.  

The Scottish Conservatives have the opportunity to emerge as a force for real change in Scotland. By offering a truly popular conservative platform grounded in our enduring principles, they can tap into the desires of the electorate and lead Scotland towards a brighter, more prosperous future. With bold leadership and a commitment to freedom and opportunity, the Scottish Conservatives can seize this moment and usher in a new era of conservative governance for Scotland.