The election for the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives has become increasingly rancorous. Murdo Fraser, the current deputy leader has put forward an interesting and brave idea that the "Conservative" brand in Scotland is so toxic that it needs to be changed. The remaining four candidates reject his analysis and suggest that the way forward is simply to be more vehement about where they stand now.
The fact is though, that the Conservatives stand nowhere. They long ago lost the support of the urban proletariat, then the Kirk, then latterly even industry, and now farmers. Without renewal, they are condemned to die out- and the greatest part of this renewal is to stop reminding the Scottish people how much they opposed the new constitutional arrangements.
A huge number of erstwhile Conservative voters have defected to the SNP, and yet the message does not seem to have come home to the party as to what this means.
The backbiting, both in public and in private against Murdo Fraser's stand suggests that he is facing an uphill task to say the least. However, if he does not win, the outlook for the Scottish Tories is even more terminal than if he does. The backward looking nature of the whole debate shows how far some Tories still have to go in order to recognize that much of their predicament is down to their own political choices. As old dinosaurs such as Michael Forsyth or light-weights like David Mundell emerge to "defend the Union", it is hard to even recognize what kind of Union it is that they want to defend.
While the Scottish Liberal Democrats begin to lick their wounds, it is possible to see where and how they can address the incredibly strong hostility to the Lib Dem participation in the coalition- the Lib Dems are toxic by association, but the Tories are just toxic. It requires the kind of thinking that Murdo Fraser is putting forward for the party to even arrest its decline, never mind to make progress at the next Holyrood election or defeat the referendum on Separatism that Alex Salmond wants to time for maximum political advantage in a couple of years.
Yet the SNP- lead by "His High Excellency" (allegedly Salmond's preferred form of address after any independence was established)- are far from invulnerable, even if Labour may lack the ability or desire to land the killer blow. A rejuvenated Progressive Party (or whatever brand that the Conservatives choose) could reanimate a new Federal relationship with the rest of the UK, which is what opinion polls repeatedly tell us that the Scottish People would prefer instead of SNP-style separatism.
Of course if Murdo Fraser is defeated, the risk is that the Conservatives remain in the cold and can not participate in, let alone lead, a drive to overturn the dead-end socialism that has dominated and stagnated Scottish politics for half a century.
Murdo Fraser has demonstrated the kind of courage that is needed to lead his party out of the desert- the question is whether the Conservatives still choose to worship the dead idol of "Unionism" or to embrace the new political reality that can lead them back to the political heartland, and coincidentally rescue the common state from the risk of total dissolution.