But they are not alone in attempting this ruse. The “Scottish Conservatives” and “Scottish Liberal Democrats” are no more real than “Scottish Labour”. Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie are no less mere proxies for their bosses in London than Kezia Dugdale. Of all the deceptions perpetrated by the British parties in Scotland, surely the most reprehensible is passing themselves of as autonomous Scottish parties able to formulate policy independently of the ‘parent’ party.
This has profound implications for democracy in Scotland. As Scotland’s political culture diverges from that of the rest of the UK (rUK) the fact that the ‘leaders’ of the British parties in Scotland cannot formulate policy that is informed by this distinctive political culture is increasingly relevant. Ultimately, policy is formulated by the real party leadership in London. A leadership which shows no signs whatever of being aware of the prevailing political culture in Scotland. A leadership which is, in fact, determined to deny any distinctiveness whatever. And to eradicate those differences that cannot be denied.
Whatever the ‘leaders’ of the British parties in Scotland may say, they are subject to the authority of the ‘parent’ party in the same way as any ordinary member of that party. They are prohibited from promoting any policy other than that adopted by the UK party. However much they may pretend otherwise, they cannot make policy for Scotland.
And make no mistake, this applies to devolved areas every bit as much as to reserved matters. It may be that the ‘leaders’ of the British parties’ operations in Scotland are occasionally consulted on policy in devolved areas. But that is as far as it goes. The final decision will always be in the hands of the real leadership. And that decision will always reflect the interests of a UK party immersed in the political culture of rUK. A political culture that is significantly different from that in Scotland. A political culture which steers policy formulation in directions that bear little or no relation to the needs, aspirations and priorities of Scotland’s people.
What this means is that the British parties in Scotland are touting for votes on a false prospectus. They are presenting themselves as Scottish parties when they clearly are not. Voters may want to reflect on the fact that, by voting for any of the British parties, they are effectively voting for London rule.