Here's a long version of the story about Peter de Vink in today's Sunday Herald, plus a copy of an article he's written for the paper.
Scottish Political Editor
A VETERAN Tory fundraiser has denounced his party as "complete plonkers" for being so hostile to independence, after he was dropped as a council candidate for not backing the Union.
Financier Peter de Vink, a stalwart of the Scottish Conservatives since the mid-1970s, had been selected to stand in Midlothian, but was "dismissed” after supporting an independent Scotland.
|Peter de Vink: Tories have heads in the sand|
In digs at leader Ruth Davidson, who said the current Scotland Bill should be a “line in the sand” for devolution, Mr de Vink says the Tories are repeating the errors of the 1980s and 1990s, when they opposed a Scottish Parliament.
“I fear we are once again harking back to the old days where we draw a line in the sand on Scotland’s constitutional journey,” he writes.
“The negative arguments of the current leadership will cause more Scots to support independence rather than vote against it, while leaving the party condemned to the pages of history.”
He told the Sunday Herald the Tories had to be more realistic about the prospect of independence, and think what to do in the event of a Yes vote, not shut down debate.
"Here's the party that stands for independence of views, freedom of speech, freedom of action, and yet we are so intolerant when it comes to this. They look complete plonkers. They look so inept. Ruth Davidson, she is so out of her depth it's just a laugh."
Mr de Vink, 71, tried to make his points in a debate on the Union at the Tory conference yesterday, but was not called to speak.
He said it was "ludicrous" the debate only heard from speakers in favour of the Union.
After being blocked as a Tory candidate earlier this month, he is now standing as an Independent in the Midlothian East Ward in May instead.
Managing director of Edinburgh Financial & General Holdings, Mr de Vink said he had raised “huge sums” for the Tories down the years, but now "hated to think" how much.
In 1988, he was a founder member of the Tory party’s Scottish Business Group alongside former coal board chairman Sir Alan MacGregor and the merchant banker Sir Angus Grossart.
Earlier this month he hosted a lunch for Alex Salmond at Edinburgh’s New Club, partly to confront the First Minister with his critics, after which “very senior” Tories made it plain he could no longer be a candidate.
"In the invitation to the lunch I said I had come to the conclusion that independence was actually a very attractive option for Scotland.
"Some people sent that to their friends in the higher ranks of the Tory party and they accused me of running with the hare and chasing with the hounds. I said, 'Bollocks, this is a local election,
nothing to do with independence', but they said No. So I became a victim of the cabal."
He went on: “They said I have to be a unionist to be a Conservative, which I think is barking mad.
“The Tory party is painting itself in again by absolutely dismissing independence just as they dismissed devolution
“Look at what a pathetic party it has become, with one member of parliament at Westminster. I call that pathetic... always hankering back to the past. Why not look to the future?"
He said the main attraction of independence was financial.
“Scotland can stand on its own feet and can earn what it spends and spend what it earns and it stops being a subsidy junky thanks to [the] Barnett [formula].
“I think if we became independent we could start thinking out of the box.”
He said a flat tax (one tax rate regardless of income) could be introduced by a right-of-centre party.
“What I’m tryin to say its that it’s better to prepare for reality.
“I am almost convinced beyond reasonable doubt that we will have independence and when it comes then we are going to have missed the boat. That’s my message."
An SNP spokesman said: "The Tory-led anti-independence campaign is lurching from one disaster to another - this serious split in what remains of the Tories' ranks is a direct result of their negative approach to the constitutional debate and to Scotland's future."
A Scottish Conservative party spokesman said: "Peter de Vink's views are not representative's of the party's view of Scotland's place within the United Kingdom.
"The Scotland Bill represents the biggest transfer of fiscal powers in 300 years and how they should be used is clear - to cut the tax burden faced by individuals and businesses.
"We need to settle the question of separation and ensure the Scottish Conservatives continue to play their full part – as we always have done – in making devolution work for the people of Scotland.
"Scotland is wealthier, fairer and safer for being part of the United Kingdom and the Scottish Conservatives will remain a Unionist party."