Professor Adam Tomkins, the John Millar Chair of Public Law at the University of Glasgow, has been selected as the Conservative and Unionist candidate for the constituency of Glasgow Anniesland. It is understood that he will also be at the top of the Conservative list for the Glasgow region, which will significantly increase his chances of winning a Holyrood seat next May.
Professor Tomkins campaigned for a No vote in last year’s independence referendum, describing the SNP’s plans as “not a road to independence but a ruinous route of reckless abandon”. He was one of the Conservative representatives during the cross-party Smith Commission negotiations, which followed the No vote in the referendum. Earlier this year, he took up a position as an unpaid advisor to the secretary of state for Scotland David Mundell as the Scotland Bill began its passage through parliament. The bill is currently at report stage in the House of Commons.
On his personal blog, Notes from North Britain, Tomkins criticised the Scottish government’s record on health, education, and policing. He wrote: “The SNP thrive on the politics of grievance, but the truth is it is already the case that there is no-one to blame but the SNP for the ongoing failures of Scottish education, of the Scottish health service, and of policing and the criminal justice system in Scotland. The SNP’s record in office is dismal. In large part this is because, in the interests of pursuing their constitutional obsession, they would rather bleat about the powers they don’t have than get on and use the powers they do have.”
Attacking the “centralising tendencies” of the SNP, Tomkins wrote: “When the SNP does act to make reforms in Scotland, two tendencies in its policy-making are striking. The SNP’s illiberalism should not, perhaps, surprise us, nationalism in Europe all too often having sacrificed individual freedoms on the altar of national self-determination. The party’s centralising tendencies, however, are remarkable given the SNP’s vocal opposition to rule from London.”
The SNP is not the only target Tomkins takes aim at in his latest blog post. Ahead of the referendum, he describes how he offered his legal expertise to all of the main Unionist parties: “I worked for the Advocate General, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Wallace. I worked for the Scottish Conservatives (with the party’s Strathclyde Commission, examining the operation and reform of devolution). But with Labour nothing happened – they kept asking me who I voted for, not what I could offer in Scotland’s constitutional moment of need. They are the most tribal politicians I have ever encountered.”
Tomkins goes on to describe himself as: “liberal, modern, reformist. Committed to the Union, of course, but also to renewing and breathing fresh life into it through devolution and decentralisation, driving power down not hoarding it at the top.”
Professor Tomkins was the subject of a minor controversy earlier this year, when he invited Daniel Taub, the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, to the University to give a guest lecture. The University confirmed that the ambassador was invited by “academic colleagues”, and denied that the visit was for anything other than academic purposes. At the time, protesters from the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign called for Tomkins to resign.
When asked how the University, as Professor Tomkins' employer, would respond if the law professor became an elected member of the Scottish Parliament, a spokesperson said: “We are fully supportive of any staff member who wishes to take part in the democratic process.”
Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives at Holyrood, who is currently an MSP for the Glasgow region, is to stand in the Lothians region instead, where the party believes it can make electoral gains. This would leave her position at the top of the Glasgow regional list vacant for Professor Tomkins.
Kyle Thornton, a twenty-one year old undergraduate studying politics and central and eastern European studies at the University of Glasgow, has also been selected as the Conservative and Unionist candidate for Glasgow Cathcart. He stood for election to Westminster earlier this year for the constituency of Glasgow South.