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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teacher Required in Grays

£21000 - £40000 per annum + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 tea...

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee