Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP clearly run ‘devolved’ Scotland. But who now runs the equally significant ‘reserved’ Scotland? Prime Minister David Cameron? Hardly. Post-referendum Scotland takes up a vanishingly small amount of his time. His Secretary of State for Scotland, Scotland’s only Tory MP, perhaps? No again. The main political role of the secretary of state is to be the sounding board for how UK-wide policies will affect Scotland. He’s a very junior cabinet minister indeed. And what’s the point of asking a guy 100 yards away in Whitehall when you own the real leader of the opposition in Scotland?
The simple truth is that every time the chancellor wants to gauge the response of Scotland to a new fiscal or economic measure; every time a cabinet minister wants to scope the effect on Scotland of a putative piece of UK-wide legislation; every time the prime minister even thinks about Scotland it’ll be Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories on the other end of the line.
And Davidson’s de facto executive powers, acquired by losing an election by over 25 points, won’t stop at reserved issues. Health, for example, is devolved but many of the key costs – like important elements of staffing, clinical standards, drug policy and equipment procurement – are essentially determined in London. So via their vast influence over UK ministers, Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories will now be able to jump right into the mechanics of UK settlements and decisions and sabotage the SNP’s devolved government before things even reach Scotland.
Then, in a couple of years, David Cameron will give way as prime minister to someone only the Tories will have a say in choosing. That new Tory prime minister will have only one aim: re-election in 2020. He or she will want only two things from Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories and that’ll be for the Scottish Tories to take two or three ‘shire’ seats from the SNP in 2020 and in the meantime to manage any potential Tory trickinesses and exploit any potential Tory benefits in the offing at Holyrood. In return, providing she proves competent, Davidson will be given the run of reserved policy as it affects Scotland. Then, if the highly-predicted Tory win in 2020 actually takes place, there’ll be more of the same – for years and years and years.
The narrative for a long, long time to come seems very likely to be a centrist SNP elected by almost half the population of Scotland being stymied on the right by the new champions of union – The Scottish Tories.
Somethings gotta give…..