The Scottish Conservative Party

Primary Author or Creator:
Alan Convery
The Oxford Handbook of Scottish Politics
Alternative Published Date
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The 20th century history of the Conservative Party and its view of devolution.

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The relative autonomy of the Scottish Conservative Party within the British Conservative Party can be traced to its beginnings as a separate entity that only merged with the UK party in the 1960s.

The decline of the Scottish Conservatives since the high point of 1955 has been striking and was at its most marked during the Conservative Governments (1979–1997) when Margaret Thatcher became a potent symbol of a foreign Englishness. Scottish conservatism and, especially, Unionism is ideologically flexible, but it took its cue from the economically liberal direction of the British Conservative Party at the end of the twentieth century.

Attitudes towards devolution have in general caused much more discord than its approach to economic policy. These debates pose fundamental questions about the Union and became intertwined in the 1990s with issues of Scottish distinctiveness and identity in a manner that was damaging for the Conservatives. The Scottish Conservatives’ recent revival under Ruth Davidson’s leadership poses the question of how far the party has changed its policies and approach since 1997.