The new group of Scottish Conservative MPs in Westminster will set out to soften the government's approach to welfare and Brexit to avoid damaging the Tory party's unlikely resurgence in Scotland, party sources have told BuzzFeed News.
During the election campaign, Conservative candidates knocking on doors in Scotland reported back that they were getting severe criticism for Theresa May's hardline policies on leaving the EU and the so-called dementia tax.
The Scottish party has identified Brexit and welfare as the two key areas where it needs to focus on and rein in the government's approach to ensure it doesn't fall back from the 13 MPs it won at the general election earlier this month.
The party fears that, although it won substantial majorities in many of its 13 seats, the election showed the unpredictability of the electorate in Scotland and that it could easily be the victim of equally huge swings at the next election.
Party sources said leader Ruth Davidson was "frustrated" by some of the prime minister's manifesto commitments, which the Scottish leader was forced to defend despite not being consulted on them before they were published.
"I think this was born of the immediate aftermath of the election and the frustration Ruth had was that there were a number of policies in the manifesto, which would clearly have a big impact in Scotland, and nobody got that privileged information," said a senior party source.
"We need to find a way of asserting our position on the determination of policies which are clearly of import to Scotland, and we need to make sure there’s never an occasion again when we are outside of the drafting."
The group is still expected to have its own whip joining the UK Conservative whip team, but sources say occasions when the Scottish bloc differs from the UK whip will be very rare. The whip's main role will be as the main link between the Scottish Tory group, the non-Scottish Tory MPs, and Davidson.
Rather than voting against the rest of the party in the Commons, the Scottish bloc of MPs will use whatever influence it has behind the scenes to make its approach to some issues more palatable to Scottish voters to help lock in the party's resurgence.
"Clearly the welfare questions – and there's a number of them – have a disproportionate impact south of the border but began to leech into us up north, even with things that didn’t apply to Scotland like the dementia tax," said a party source.
"Quite a bit of movement is anticipated in this parliament in terms of welfare. Given the horror welfare was on the doorstep for the Scottish Tories, we will have a strong watching brief on this element."
The group will be represented in government and in most national media coverage by David Mundell MP, who has been reappointed as Scotland secretary, and Ian Duncan MEP, who will enter the House of Lords and become Mundell's deputy.
Sources say Duncan is expected to take the lead on Brexit in terms of representing Scottish interests – specifically on the issues of farming, fishing, and energy – once he enters the House of Lords and becomes a Scotland Office minister.
The party previously made clear that fishing must be protected, and Davidson has said she was seeking an "open Brexit" that put the economy first – rhetoric that has since been copied by foreign secretary Boris Johnson and chancellor Philip Hammond.
The Scottish party has identified that it will be able to have substantial influence over the approach to Brexit, especially on Scottish matters, but the exact specifics of what Davidson wants to achieve have yet to be comprehensively set out.
"There’s a recognition the government doesn’t have the votes to deliver any of the things they thought would be straightforward," said a source. "Ruth's trying to give it a warmer look than the chilling, slimy, cold hand of May has managed to offer so far."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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