Scotland and Wales: Tory-free zones

Once a majority, now down to nil
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Michael Forsyth went fishing yesterday morning as the Conservative Party he led before the election tried to come to terms with its annihilation in Scotland.

The Conservatives, who in the 1950s were the majority party in Scotland, not only have no MPs, but no members of the European Parliament. Not one council in Scotland is under Tory control.

David McLetchie, president of the depleted voluntary wing of the party, said the Conservatives in Scotland had to go back to basics and then rebuild. Mr McLetchie did not rule out dropping the party's full-blooded opposition to devolution, which had been such a feature of Mr Forsyth's period as Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr Forsyth, one of three Cabinet ministers in Scotland to lose his seat, ruled himself out of any immediate political activity, including, it seemed, the possibility of leading opposition to Labour's proposed referendum on a Scottish Parliament.

"I am going to take my own advice and reflect on the result, but I think it is very unlikely for the foreseeable future that I will be involved in politics. Although I shall remain a member of the Conservative Party here in Scotland and will do anything I can to assist in the Unionist cause." Mr Forsyth told reporters he had already been fishing in his new life as "Private Subject Forsyth".

Most Scots Tories still seemed too shocked at their party's overnight annihilation to think about the future.

The wipeout means that a Tory representing an English constituency will now have to act as shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. There are several Scots-born Tories capable of filling the post, but the bizarre nature of the arrangement is bound to provoke protests when the unfortunate appointee rises to speak in the Commons.

Under current rules there will also be no Tories on the Scottish Grand Committee, since membership is limited to the country's 72 MPs. Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish Nationalists, said he would strongly resist any Tories from England being "parachuted" on to the committee.

The SNP and Liberal Democrats spent yesterday vying for the role of "official opposition" north of the border. By careful targeting, the Liberal Democrats won 10 seats in Scotland while the SNP, on a larger 22 per cent share of the vote, added only two seats to the four they held before 1 May.

Privately, the SNP was disappointed not to have won any seats from Labour and their tally fell short of the minimum seven seats Mr Salmond had wanted.

Sounding rather like a football manager claiming success on his team's share of possession rather than goals, Mr Salmond told reporters: "We are still the Braveheart of Scottish politics. We are also claiming to be the official opposition in Scotland."