Why Boris & Ruth must get serious about the future of the United Kingdom, by Matt Lomax
The sacking of former Scottish Secretary David Mundell was seen as an act of provocation by Scottish Tories. Mundell was seen largely as a safe pair of hands: a steady captain navigating through choppy SNP waters with his First Officer Ruth Davidson at the wheel.
The relationship between Ruth and Mundell was admired by most in the party; together they denied the SNP the chance of a second referendum (and the backlash that followed), saw an increase of funding for Scotland’s block grant and kept Theresa May & David Cameron in check. Davidson, for her part, oversaw the largest increase in votes for the party north of border for more than 20 years. Mundell – known affectionately as Fluffy – helped organise party strategy and kept the blue flame glimmering in Scotland before Ruth came along.
Together they were a force to be reckoned with. It all ended last month, when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. Johnson – annoyed at the disapproving comments leaked from Mundell’s camp before his appointment – put Alister Jack in his place instead.
Jack – MP for Dumfries & Galloway – is smart, decisive and just like his predecessor, won’t play to Sturgeon’s tune. But something sent shockwaves through the Scottish Tory camp on that day; party members no longer feel confident Ruth or Boris can together take on the SNP. It shouldn’t be left for think tanks and party groups – like Blue Beyond – to propose ways to save the Union – it should be coming from party leaders themselves.
Boris needs to get serious – and quick – about Scotland’s role in the UK. Ruth, for her part, needs to keep focus by backing Boris every step of the way in his Brexit strategy. This includes No Deal.
Any fractions in the party will be exploited by the SNP – already looking for their next grievance and banking on a surge of support for independence after a no deal scenario. Ruth and Boris have to be creative. Rally round the new Scottish Secretary and promote the benefits of being outside the EU. Scottish fishing is the biggest card they have to play, leading a campaign on the opportunities for Scottish fishermen to be freed of the dead hand of EU regulation will be vital in keeping coastal communities on side.
Fluffy and Davidson are close friends, with Fluffy officiating Davidson's marriage
Good trade deals will help Scottish farmers become more self-sufficient in the long run; greater powers on the environment, food standards and public health will reap benefits too.
The SNP are already in knots over the EU; MSPs and MPs are already plotting behind Nicola’s back, eagerly awaiting for her to announce when she’ll be stepping down to prepare a new ground campaign for independence. Many party activists are bitter about her not calling another referendum and are hoping to pass the baton on to somebody who will.
Ruth & Boris should be taking advantage of this, and promoting Scotland outside the EU as a strong coastal nation. But not only Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland.
A serious lack of planning has been done on these points which, if done right, will keep the UK united and the nationalists kept to fringes of the back benches for years to come.
Exec Views is a series of opinion pieces written by Blue Beyond exec. Matt is regional co-ordinator for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. He lives in Skye, Scotland.