A cursory glance at the recommendations of the Sanderson Commission shows just how far the Scottish Conservatives have to travel if they are to become a renewed force in the political firmament. Under the category of “haud me back”, it is suggested that the party needs to “increase support and resources for the local association network” and “to contest every local government seat throughout Scotland”. If this is the extent of Tory ambition, we might just see them becoming a cult rather than a rump by 2050.
Recommendation 8 proposes the “overhaul candidate selection and development – and reform the current ranking process for Regional List MSPs”. Sadly, the report was produced too late to influence the process underway for the 2011 Scottish elections. But boy do the results of the regional ranking indicate just how much reform is needed.
For the party might have saved itself the time and bother and simply have declared all the incumbents a shoe-in. Numbers of returning MSPs? 14 Number of new faces? 3. And these only because of the retirement of Bill Aitken, Ted Brocklebank and Alex Fergusson (who currently doesn’t count as a Conservative member because he is the Presiding Officer)
It is highly unlikely that the Conservatives will improve on its current tally of 17 MSPs. Despite traditionally polling lower than the eventual result, there would have to be some kind of astonishing swing towards them to produce significant gains. So who will be gracing us with their presence on the Holyrood benches after next May?
Last time round Margaret Mitchell was the sole Conservative elected from Central Region and she’ll be back, occupying top slot in their ranking for this region. In Highland region in 2007, Jamie McGrigor and Mary Scanlon were elected; in 2011, courtesy of the top two ranking slots, they’ll be back. In North East Scotland two MSPs, Alex Johnstone and Nanette Milne were elected and yes, you’ve guessed it, they’ll be back. As will Annabel Goldie and Jackson Carlaw, who topped the list ranking for West of Scotland.
In the Lothians, David McLetchie will return either as a constituency MSP or off the regional list as he took top spot and he should be joined by Gavin Brown from the list.
The only regions likely to introduce some much needed fresh faces will be Mid Scotland and Fife – Miles Briggs – and Glasgow – Malcolm MacAskill. Glasgow’s new Conservative MSP comes courtesy of Bill Aitken’s standing down. And the wonderfully monikered initiate in Mid Scotland and Fife will be joined by returnees, Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith.
South of Scotland is the only other region to introduce a new boy to the fray, although Peter Duncan was previously an MP. He should either hold the Galloway seat or come in off the regional list. Derek Brownlee tops that ranking and John Scott should hold his seat in Ayr. Meanwhile John Lamont faces a tighter contest to hold Roxburgh and Berwickshire but would get a consolation prize of a list seat.
And eh, that’s it. The opportunity to introduce three new faces did not prompt the party faithful to improve the parliamentary group’s gender balance, and none of the MSPs likely to be elected next year are from a black or ethnic minority background. The age quotient is also pretty high.
And what did the Scottish Tory leader, Annabel Goldie, have to say on it all? “I am proud to be leading such a fantastic team into next year’s elections. We have an impressive blend of experience and fresh, young talent across all regions, all determined to take our strong, positive message to voters.”
Dearie, dearie me.
The party might want to apply some urgency in implementing recommendations 1 – elect a Scottish leader to have overall responsibility for the Party’s performance in Scotland – and 9 – establish a process to identify and develop future Party leaders.