Leadership hopeful reveals his vision for new Tory party

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TORY leadership contender Murdo Fraser today set out details of his plans for a new party, saying it would provide a “foot in the door” to persuade voters to back a centre-right vision for Scotland.

Launching his campaign in Edinburgh today, he said the current Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party was “not fit for purpose” and was “more of a hindrance than a help” to the formation of a UK Conservative government.

He noted the party’s failure to recover since the 1997 general election when it lost all its Scottish seats. “As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Mr Fraser said the “brutal truth” was that the party in its current form was failing.

He said: “A clear contradiction undermines everything we say and do. We are a party which believes in devolving power to people but we haven’t devolved power to ourselves.”

He insisted his plans for a new party and a “new unionism” would not just be the “same old Tories”.

He said: “We will rejuvenate our party from the grassroots up. We will invest in our local organisations. We will give local parties greater freedom in candidate selection. We will encourage genuine policy debate at our conferences. And we will enhance the role of local councillors.

“In short, we will become an open and attractive organisation that people think is worth joining, donating to, supporting, and, most importantly, voting for.”

Prime Minister David Cameron was today said to be “privately unhappy” about Mr Fraser’s plans for a new party and to regard it as a “distraction” from the fight against the SNP.

But Mr Fraser said: “A new party and new unionism are the political equivalents of a foot in the door. They offer us a fresh opportunity to be heard, a fair hearing, free of preconceptions and negative perceptions. They give us a chance to convince people in Scotland of the value of what we stand for.”

Mr Fraser said some Tories would accuse him of heresy. But he said: “I say to them with complete clarity and conviction: there is no future for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party in its current form.”

He said he fully supported the “excellent work” of the UK coalition and MPs elected from the new party would take the Tory whip at Westminster.

He said: “We will continue to share fundamental, centre-right values and a common approach to many issues.

“But we will not hesitate to champion the Scottish national interest in areas such as fishing or the future of our regiments, even if it means a disagreement or two with a future UK Conservative government.”

He said: “This is not simply a re-branding exercise. This is not PR or spin. This will be a new party with a completely new approach.”

nA new poll today showed more people in favour of Scottish independence than against it.

The TNS-BMRB survey found 39 per cent would vote Yes to independence with 38 per cent voting No.