‘Stushie’ is one of those good Scots words which deserve greater currency. It means ‘row’, ‘squabble’, ‘set to’, ‘commotion’, or ‘rumpus’. It’s a good Scots word which aptly describes the fankle the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party has got itself into due to Ruth Davidson’s determination to cleanse the party of internal opposition.
Strangely one of the winners following the recent general election was one of the losers. Ian Duncan, Scotland’s only Tory MEP, narrowly failed to win the seat of Perth North from the SNP’s Pete Wishart, who took the seat by 21 votes.
At the urging of Ruth Davidson, a fellow patron with Ian Duncan of LGBTory, he was made a peer, air-lifted from Brussels and parachuted into the Scotland Office as second string to David Mundell, Scottish Secretary. Coincidentally, Mundell himself got the Scotland Office initially because, when appointed, he was Scotland’s only Tory MP. There was not a great deal of competition.
Ian Duncan’s elevation left the Scottish Conservatives with a problem, who would replace him as MEP? European elections operate a list system. The Tory list is chosen by party members by internal election. Under this system the second person on the list for the European election in 2014 would normally step up and take Duncan’s place in Brussels.
The problem with that is that first in line to replace Ian Duncan was Belinda Don, an Edinburgh businesswoman. Mrs Don was part of the opposition to Ruth Davidson becoming party leader in 2011.
Instead of Mrs Don, the party leadership chose Ian McGill, who was fifth on the list, the third and fourth candidates having dropped out. Mrs Don has reacted by issuing a writ against the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.
There can be little doubt that Belinda Don is well used to the highways and byways of Brussels and Strasbourg. She served for twelve years as adviser and parliamentary assistant to the respected Struan Stevenson, the former Tory MEP.
This is the second time Belinda Don has been passed over by the party hierarchy since Ruth Davidson became leader. It was reported at the time that when Struan Stevenson announced his intention to retire before the 2014 European election, he wanted Mrs Don to replace him. Instead the party chose Dr Duncan and placed Mrs Don second on the list.
Ruth Davidson claims that the choice of Mr McGill was made because ‘Belinda disappeared as soon as she failed to win a seat in 2014. She only came back again when it emerged that Ian might be coming back from Brussels and there was a chance she might take his place. This is about loyalty and commitment — or a lack of it’.
Voices within the party agree that ditching Belinda Don was about loyalty and commitment, only not to the party. It is being seen a matter of loyalty and commitment to Ruth Davidson.
There are doubts that Mrs Don will be successful in her writ. A similar case brought by Alex Story failed last year. As second on the list for Yorkshire and Humber, he expected to become an MEP when Timothy Kirkhope went to the Lords. Instead John Proctor, third on the list, was given the place. Mr Story’s request for an injunction was rejected by the High Court.
Successful or not, Belinda Don’s action reveals that not all is well amongst Scottish Tories. It is reported that one Scottish Conservative insider said: ‘She has been stitched up over this. Ruth never liked her and has done all she can to get her favoured candidate in place’ Ruth Davidson’s control issues are causing problems amongst the party faithful.
(Image: Gareth Milner)