Leaderless Scots Tories look to Europe as way out of the mire

At a garden party in Lanarkshire this weekend, Scottish Conservatives will be searching for a way out of the mire that engulfs them. Ironically, those attending will be looking with a Euro-friendly demeanour towards a role model in Germany's Christian Social Union.

The option of becoming a independent Unionist party - similar to the right-wing, regional CSU which dominates Bavaria while supporting Chancellor Kohl's Christian Democrats at federal level - will be considered by the Tory rump left after the election cull.

Arthur Bell, chairman of the Scottish Tory Reform Group, has commissioned a study of the CDU/CSU link, and hopes to have results when up to 80 invited members of the party gather in a marquee at his home near Biggar.

The meeting will be no social gathering: a newspaper survey found that of 38 constituency chairs who responded (there are 72 seats in Scotland), only 15 said the party should continue to oppose home rule; eight backed support for devolution and 15 said there should be no party line in this autumn's referendum on Labour's Scottish Parliament plan.

Sixteen out of 38 thought the party should break with the past by changing its name, nine of them preferring the Scottish Union Party.

The fact is that Tories north of the border are thinking of splitting from England while remaining Unionist, looking at adopting a federal relationship with London. That they are considering these measures, and a U-turn on their opposition to home rule, shows some desperation - or imaginative thinking - from a leaderless party trying to find whether and how it can salvage a future for itself.

The party has no MPs - down from ten before the election - no Euro-MPs, no local councils under its control and fewer than 70 elected councillors.

John Major has declined to appoint a shadow Scottish Secretary, leaving leadership rivals Michael Howard and William Hague to co-operate on constitutional matters.

The one thing on which members seem united is that things can only get better, but with a power vacuum at the top, they are at odds as to how that could happen.

The three former Scottish secretaries, who lost their seats on 1 May, are all on holiday until later this week. Michael Forsyth has said he is out of politics for the foreseeable future, Malcolm Rifkind intends to return and Ian Lang's intentions are unclear.

Annabel Goldie, the current Scottish Tory party chair has inherited a very difficult job. She took over at the start of the election campaign when her predecessor, Sir Michael Hirst, suddenly resigned, believing - wrongly - that a gay relationship was about to be exposed.

Last week he told the media he had been stitched up and although no naming names, the finger was pointed at Mr Bell for raising the rumours with senior party figures.

In the absence of other leadership, the loudest voices raised in the party have been critical of the anti-devolution line it took while in government.

"I have said for some time that if the party developed an ostrich-like position, it would not see what was going on and it would leave its anatomy exposed in rather tender parts," says Arthur Bell. "That is exactly what happened."

Pressure is building for major reforms to party organisation and policy making, ensuring a stronger role for grassroots members. The party has no say in the election of John Major's successor: This point will be at the forefront of moves to modernise the Conservative power structure throughout the UK.

The Tories are not the only ones trying to find their way in a new political landscape. Without a shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, both the Scottish Liberal Democrats, with ten MPs, and the Scottish Nationalists, second to Labour in share of the vote, are claiming to be the official opposition.

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style