Leading Scottish Tory plans to disband party

 

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The front-runner to become Conservative leader in Scotland will today set out plans to disband the party north of the border, arguing that its brand has become fatally tainted among voters.

Murdo Fraser's proposal to create a new centre-right party free from the baggage of the Thatcher years divided Scottish Tories yesterday, with critics protesting that the move would play into the hands of the SNP.

But Mr Fraser, the deputy leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, argues the Tories' identity problem is so grave their party has to be completely overhauled. He said MPs elected under the new banner would sit alongside David Cameron's party in the Commons, but would otherwise be separate.

Mr Fraser, who formally launches his leadership campaign today, said: "There's a lot of interest in centre-right values among people in Scotland, but they don't vote for the Conservative Party.

"I think it's time we launched a new, progressive, centre-right party with a distinct Scottish identity. One that would have a partnership with the UK Conservative Party, and in other respects be operationally independent. I think that would be much more attractive to many people in Scotland who share our values.

The proposed party would contest Westminster, Holyrood and council elections, leaving Mr Cameron with the prospect of having no MPs in Scotland. The Tories were wiped from the Scottish political map in 1997 and now only have one MP. They have 15 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament out of a total of 129.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Scottish Secretary in Baroness Thatcher's government, said: "I think that what Murdo Fraser is saying is very refreshing. In broad terms, I welcome it."

But the Scotland Office minister David Mundell, the only Tory MP in Scotland, said changing the name was a "simplistic" approach.

"I will take a very great deal of convincing that, by simply having a separate party in Scotland, that will resolve the electoral issues we face," he said.

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