Scotland’s Bourbon Queen Sees Her Crown Slip

Scotland’s Bourbon Queen Sees Her Crown Slip

by Murdo Fraser
article from Friday 16, June, 2017

THIS TIME last year, Nicola Sturgeon was in no doubt. Within a few short hours of the result of the Brexit referendum having been declared, she was on her feet in Bute House, announcing that a second independence referendum was now “highly likely”, and instructing her civil servants to start work on preparing the necessary legislation.

How much has changed in just twelve months. Contrary to everything that Sturgeon hoped for, there was no Brexit backlash in Scotland, no surge in support for independence. Not even when Theresa May said “Not now” to the Scottish Government’s request for Section 30 powers to allow a referendum to be held, did support for a Yes vote increase.

The culmination of the last 12 months’ events came with the results of the General Election in Scotland. The Scottish Conservatives asked voters across Scotland to send Nicola Sturgeon a message that they didn’t want a second independence referendum, and the voters responded in spades.

We had our best results since 1983, with 12 new Scottish Conservative Members of Parliament elected. The highlight of the night for many was seeing the decapitation of the SNP group at Westminster, with both Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond losing to Conservative challengers.

Initially, Nicola Sturgeon seemed almost unable to grasp the scale of her setback. In a remarkable statement, she said that the Prime Minister’s position was now “untenable”, on the basis that the Conservatives had had a net loss of 12 seats across the United Kingdom. The logic of this for her own position, having lost 21 seats just in Scotland, seemed to be lost on her.

The General Election result means that, for the first time, David Mundell will be supported by an energetic team of fresh new Scottish Conservative MPs, there to articulate the Scottish interest at the very heart of government. What a contrast to the SNP’s “feeble 56”, simply shouting from the sidelines, and achieving nothing of benefit.

There were two major factors in the Conservative success at the General Election: two over-lapping issues. The first, featuring heavily in Conservative literature, was to say No to a second independence referendum. The second was the demand that the SNP government in Edinburgh get back to “the day job”. But, since the General Election result, there is no evidence they have understood what happened on Election day, never mind learned any lessons.

There are many voices in the SNP, among them the likes of Fiona Hyslop and Michael Russell, claiming that the campaign for a second independence referendum should press on regardless. Others, such as Kenny MacAskill and Alex Neil, are much more cautious. The older, wiser heads understand the damage that has been done to the SNP’s standing, and the loss of momentum that is caused by losing more than 20 parliamentary seats, and half a million votes, in the space of just two years.

Sticking to the demand for a second referendum will simply lead to further SNP decline. And yet, with unbelievable arrogance, the First Minister refuses to change course. Her stance on a second referendum continues to damage the Scottish economy, deterring investment, and acting as a break on growth rates. And the focus on the constitution, neglecting the issues that really matter to the people – education, the economy, the health service, and policing – simply damages the SNP’s reputation even further.

As a Scottish Conservative, I was delighted at our best election result in more than 30 years. As a Scottish Conservative, I should be pleased that the SNP are refusing to change track. It will no doubt be good for our prospects in future elections.

But that is a deeply selfish approach, for a continuing focus on independence, the continuing push for a second referendum, will be bad for Scotland, bad for our economy, and bad for our public services.

Talleyrand famously said of the Bourbon Kings of France that “they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing”. Scotland’s own Bourbon Queen, unless she starts to learn quickly, may soon find herself without a crown.

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