11 July 2024

Tories must set out ‘positive vision’ for Scotland – leadership contender

11 July 2024

Scottish Conservatives have for “years” failed to set out a “positive vision” for the country, a likely leadership contender has said.

Russell Findlay, the party’s justice spokesperson at Holyrood, insisted however that in the aftermath of the General Election the Conservatives now have the chance for a “fresh start in Scotland”.

The defeat to Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party in the Westminster vote must lead to a “hard reset” for the party across the UK, he insisted.

For Conservatives, this is our chance for a fresh start in Scotland, and we must not waste it

But Mr Findlay, who is among those tipped as a possible successor to Douglas Ross after he announced he was quitting as Scottish Tory leader during the election campaign, stressed that “in the face of this huge challenge, there are opportunities, too”.

Writing in the Scottish Daily Mail newspaper, the MSP said: “For Conservatives, this is our chance for a fresh start in Scotland, and we must not waste it.”

His comments came as Scottish Conservatives began the process for finding a new leader to take over from Mr Ross, who will remain at Holyrood after his bid to win the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat at Westminster failed.

The Scottish Conservative management board met on Wednesday evening, with a party spokesman saying afterwards it had been an “initial meeting to start discussions around the process for any leadership contest”.

The Tory spokesman added: “Further discussions will take place and more details will be outlined in due course.”

Mr Findlay, meanwhile, contrasted the “near annihilation” the party suffered south of the border with results in Scotland, where the Conservatives won five of the six constituencies they had previously held, claiming this was a “fair result”.

But he added: “Let’s not kid ourselves. Thousands of Scots who previously voted for the Scottish Conservatives chose not to do so this time.”

Mr Findlay said in the General Election campaign voters had “confided in me their concerns about what they – rightly in my view – identified as a lack of positive vision stretching back years”.

This he said was “another fundamental lesson which needs to be taken on board and acted upon, and urgently” by the party.

The MSP added: “I know what I and my party believe in. But do the public? And, if not, whose fault is that?

“I think the simple truth is that over recent years the Scottish Conservatives have focused too much on what we are opposed to, and spent not nearly enough time setting out the positive case for a modern, popular conservatism. That must change.”

In recent elections, Scottish Conservatives have focused their campaign efforts on their opposition to SNP calls for a second Scottish independence referendum to be held.

But Mr Findlay argued the party must now “formulate and clearly articulate a popular vision for Scotland”.

He cited areas such as housing, education and planning reforms and others as being “the issues of real importance to ordinary people across Scotland”.

The Tory added: “They are the issues that Scottish Conservatives must champion to reconnect with the hopes and aspirations of those ordinary people the length and breadth of Scotland, and to provide properly considered, positive, Conservative policies to achieve them.”

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