The election of a new Scottish Conservative leader is not usually an occasion of great moment in British politics. From being the preeminent force in Scotland in the 1950s the party now has only the rather gauche and lumpen David Mundell to represent them at Westminster, and even that is by the thinnest of margins.
Yet the choice that the Scottish Conservatives will reveal tomorrow will mark a significant change. Either they will choose the uncertain risk of Murdo Fraser, who has said openly that he intends to remake and even rename the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party or they will vote for an apparently safer choice in Ruth Davidson,who is said to be the choice of the London party leadership, but who is otherwise both rather inexperienced and a rather unconvincing proponent of the discredited status quo in the party.
In my view, whether Murdo Fraser wins or not, he has already opened up an intriguing possibility for Scottish political realignment.
The Socialist hegemony in Scotland has been a disaster- by every conceivable measure the health and wealth of Scotland has been undermined by the creation of a corrupt network of political patronage orchestrated by a political machine that for sheer malignity equals the very worst that Tammany Hall could offer. The public sector, by almost every measure, has grown to top 60% of the economic activity of Scotland. Labour became the party of the Scottish establishment over the course of the past three decades, and over that time the Scottish economy has grown ever less competitive and ever less efficient. After the Labour lock in Scottish politics was broken by the creation of the Scottish Parliament elected under a proportional system, the power of the party has undergone a dramatic decline. Socialism is increasingly dead in Scotland.
Yet the chief beneficiaries of the decline of Socialism have been the Separatist SNP. Paradoxically this is has been because they have absorbed many of the most radical Conservatives. Their solution to Socialism is to to adopt a shock therapy in Scotland similar to that of the ex-Communist countries, and the only way to do that is to break up the Common Kingdom and impose these dramatic policies by going it alone.
However the already severe economic dislocation that such a shock therapy would impose on the Scottish economy would be compounded by the massive restructuring of the Scottish financial system that independence would force. The asset base of the RBS group alone is a multiple of the size of Scotland's economy. There is simply no way that an independent Scotland can support such a behemoth bank, particularly since at the outset an independent Scotland would have a massive deficit- which the Bank of England would force them to address, if they wanted to continue to use Sterling. An independent currency would immediately devalue against Sterling, leaving Scotland poorer, even before the impact of the shock therapy and the bank restructuring had its first impact. The Naval and RAF bases would close, yet the new state would need to take on huge new expenses, from a separate diplomatic corps to a new customs agency- even if there was no border at Bewick.
If Socialism is dead, Separatism is a dead end, with a horrible economic sting in the tail if it ever happens.
The fact is that unless we want to see the wealth of Scotland decline by 40%-50%, with all the social woes that would cause, we should address the appalling economic and social legacy of Socialism by taking decisions within the framework of the Common Kingdom. By all means let Scotland take as many of those decisions in Scotland as it can- not just in a centralized government in Edinburgh, as the SNP insists, but at the local level too- but it would be raving madness for us to lose the option of the help and assistance that can come from the rest of the UK as the country seeks a more business minded, entrepreneurial and freer future.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats are not "Socialism Lite", and never have been, even if many Socialists were prepared to lend us their votes. We are a radical free market party, that nonetheless believes in corporate social responsibility. There are many economic positions that the Liberal Democrats share with many Conservatives. Where we parted company from the Tories was in our profound belief in Home Rule. The Scottish Parliament was an achievement that was the crowning glory of such great home rulers as Rae Michie, Russell Johnston, and dare I say it, Ross Finnie, David Steel, Malcolm Bruce, and Jim Wallace.
The adamant "Unionism" of the Tories was in our view just as much of a catastrophe as Socialism or Separatism. Now, Murdo Fraser is putting forward an imaginative policy that is very similar to our own.
Whether Murdo Fraser achieves the leadership of the Tories tomorrow or not, in a way he has already scored a victory: he is putting forward the possibility of a positive Scottish Federalism- and that is something that the Scottish Liberal Democrats can only view with satisfaction: Murdo, it may have taken a long time, but at last you are with us.
A Federalist bloc of Liberals and those Reformers who want to jump the walls of the Unionist Tory prison may yet be able to lead Scotland away from both dead Socialism and dead-end Separatism and create a better nation: both for Scotland and for Britain.
In my view, that is not only the best future for Scotland, it is what the people of Scotland want.
The SNP may decline just as quickly as they surged if a positive, hopeful message is offered to the Scottish people by a Federalist bloc that rejects equally the economic catastrophe of Socialism and the economic catastrophe of Separatism. .