Relief for Cameron as Scots vote to preserve party

Plan to disband Tories north of the border is defeated after Ruth Davidson wins crucial leadership election in Edinburgh

David Cameron was saved last night from the embarrassment of losing one of the most high-profile sections of the Conservatives after members north of the border voted against plans to dissolve the Scottish party and start something new in its place.

Murdo Fraser, the outgoing deputy leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, was defeated in his attempt to take control of the party north of the border, disband it, break away from the UK party and create a new centre-right entity.

The Prime Minister did not endorse any one candidate publicly but it was understood that his favoured candidate was Ruth Davidson, a charismatic 32-year-old former television producer.

Ms Davidson, an openly gay first-time MSP, won the leadership contest relatively comfortably yesterday. She saw off the challenge from Mr Fraser – and saved the Scottish Conservative Party for the foreseeable future – by a margin of 500 votes from the 5,500 or so cast.

But there were signs that Ms Davidson's victory – and Mr Cameron's relief – may be tested severely as the divisions exposed by Mr Fraser's defeated plan continue to plague the party. Mr Fraser argued that the Scottish Conservatives had been declining in Scotland for decades and that only a change so radical as reinventing the party would save it and bring new members and donors to it.

Mr Fraser had the support of a majority of Tory MSPs in the Scottish Parliament as well as some influential donors and more than 2,000 ordinary party members. Mr Fraser was also backed by the former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament Alex Fergusson and the senior MEP Struan Stevenson.

If only some of Mr Fraser's many supporters fail to rally to Ms Davidson's cause of saving the Scottish Conservative Party, then the effects of this most bitter leadership battle are likely to roll on for some time and damage Ms Davidson's attempts, not only to unify the party, but to build it back up to some sort of electoral respectability.

The Conservatives in Scotland won only one seat at last year's General Election and they have done no better than that since their wipe-out in 1997 when they lost all their Scottish MPs in a nationwide backlash against the Westminster government.

Ms Davidson has to smooth over the divisions exposed by the leadership contest, unify the party then tackle Mr Salmond and his independence plans before showing she can start winning seats in Scotland, something that has been beyond vastly more experienced politicians than her.

Ms Davidson said her priority was to build the Conservative membership in Scotland. "A political party is not its leader," she said. "A political party is its membership." She promised to reveal more of her plans to revitalise the party within days.

Ms Davidson does have her own high-profile supporters, most notably the former Scottish secretary Lord Forsyth who declared during the campaign that, like Margaret Thatcher, Ms Davidson had "the balls" to tackle a tough job and do it well.

As they celebrated her victory last night, Ms Davidson's supporters were also keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that Lord Forsyth was right.

1955: true-blue year

The year 1955 is etched into Scottish Conservative political history. Everyone involved with the Tories north of the border knows its significance, and how far the party has fallen since. That is because the General Election of 1955 was the highwater mark for Conservatism in Scotland, when they and their allies won the most Scots seats and votes. The Conservatives and the parties they were allied to (the Liberal Unionists and National Liberals) won 36 seats to Labour's 34 and 50.1 per cent of the vote to Labour's 46.7 per cent. The Liberals won 1.9 per cent of the vote, with the Communists and the SNP tied on 0.5 per cent.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
filmCritic Kaleem Aftab picks his favourites for Halloween
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballBeating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Life and Style
Google's doodle celebrating Halloween 2014
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes