Margo MacDonald: We must distinguish right from right-on

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The battle for Britain is on . . . and never has so little been said by so many that completely fails to address the choice to be made by people in Scotland. Ed Miliband, and his diminishing band of brothers, in Liverpool last week for the Labour Party conference, took up the chorus of Rule Britannia.

There was one Scottish Labour leadership contender singing a different song. Ken MacIntosh, the MSP Miliband forgot, said he’d fight the coming referendum on independence as a Scottish devolutionist, not a British unionist.

Are you aware of these passionate political currents swirling about our part of the world? Do you care over much that the present Conservative and Unionist Party might split into two, or three, or more, centre right groupings if Murdo Fraser wins?

Murdo, the bravest candidate in the contest to succeed Annabelle Goldie, has the support of most MSPs and, I suspect, most Conservatives, party members and habitual voters alike.

They know how “toxic” the term “Conservative” has become and they’re frustrated at always coming last, or second last, in elections where their conversation with voters has convinced them that their policies, as opposed to their reputation, find favour with voters.

These Conservatives have concluded that after all, politics is the art of the possible and that converting public support to votes for them in an election becomes impossible if they describe themselves as belonging to the Party, of Disraeli, Churchill ... and Margaret Thatcher.

Obviously, some Conservatives don’t give a hoot about the past glories of the Tories, but that careless confidence doesn’t extend to Tory party members I’ve spoken to over the past month or so. They’ve confessed to feeling sadness at the demise of what they considered to have been a strong agent in putting the great into Britain.

Some are so convinced it’s their duty to fulfil this function that they’d call themselves the Red, White and Blues, or the Boys (and girls) of the Right Brigade, or the Goodies, if that appeared popular with Scottish voters.

Yet another group knows that the economic and political climate and balance of power inside the British Isles and Ireland, in Europe and in markets across the developed and developing world, have narrowed some choices open to Scots while widening our prospects in other activities.

This group, Murdo’s mates, are just as proud of their party’s history as are the Fearsome Friends of Forsyth (Michael, now Lord), but they’re more interested in establishing an influential, or even better, powerful, centre right political party to help carve out Scotland’s future.

They want their policies and ideas examined on their merits, and not dismissed because of the lady who rubbed Scotland the wrong way.

But this past week has been all about the realisation down south that the SNP is for real: that the number of Scots at the very least open to consideration of the case for the Scottish Parliament to exercise sovereignty seems to be growing.

So, in a true spirit of Britishness, the pro-union politicians are working out how to run a “no” campaign to defend the status quo, Westminster sovereignty.

Jim Murphy announced he’d rather be red or dead than wrap himself in the same union flag as David Cameron. Not a terribly promising start, but Councillor David Meikle, the only Tory left standing in Glasgow’s City Chambers, nipped into the gents, popped on a pair of Union Jack underpants, (over his trousers, naturally) and flew into the press conference he had called to announce the birth of One Dynamic Nation.

He was sure none of the London-based Tory leaders was going to lead this grand defence of the inferiority of the Scottish Parliament to Westminster.

Cllr Meikle explained to the Scottish press that this is not only a movement of the people (perhaps not the common people), but real non-political footsoldiers, all ready to defend Queen and country against mad, bad separatists who want to modernise Scotland’s system of governance.

When a radio interviewer invited man-of-the-people Meikle to summarise his case for keeping Scotland in Britain, he cited the BBC, the royal family and a permanent member’s place on the UN Security Council.

He so obviously shares the people’s priorities. I mean, would Scots prefer acting the part of a great power, or providing a good economic and social base from which to live, work and bring up a family?

The government should put these choices to Scots in the referendum ... ASAP.