Writing exclusively for Better Nation, Ruth Davidson, Glasgow MSP and Scottish Conservative leadership contender, sets out her political beliefs on identity and the constitution.

One of the more specious claims made by a number of Nationalists is Unionists can’t make a positive case for the Union.  That’s just nonsense.  The Union between England and Scotland has led to the most peaceful and prosperous times in our two nations’ history.  So here are just a few reasons why I am proud to be Scottish and British.

Firstly I have never understood people who say you have to choose between being British and Scottish.  It is like arguing you cannot be passionate about your club and national football team.  Or even that supporting Andy Murray is incompatible with supporting Andy Murray in the Davis Cup.  It is just absurd.  Our identities are created by a number of factors, not just one narrow element. So I am proud to be Scottish and proud to be British.  I know I am not alone in this.  Millions of Scots instinctively recognise they can retain their Scottish heritage without rejecting the modern United Kingdom.

That dual-identity is at the core of my political beliefs.  I am proud to be a Unionist.  I believe Scotland is better off as part of the United Kingdom.  We have more influence over our future, as well as other parts of the world.  We are part of one of the worlds largest economies.  We are part of a cultural relationship with our closest neighbour which has made both nations better off.  Most of all the United Kingdom is greater than the sum of its parts.  As a country we have worked together against some of the greatest tyrants and threats the world has known, and we continue to do so.  That shared history, and shared success means people can be proud to be British.

Or as Annabel Goldie said recently: “I want the best for my country – and for me the best is being Scottish and British and working together for the good of us all.”

Yet despite being in this political and economic union, we have still been able to maintain our own sense of nationhood.  The Church of Scotland, the Scottish Legal System and of course the Scottish Parliament, are all examples of how we have national institutions which help to ensure we can be Scottish, while also accruing all the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom.

There are other institutions which manage to combine the two as well.  Look at the British Army.  Despite three hundred years of integration, there are Scottish units with their individual identities, but who work together to create one of the most efficient and effective forces in the world.  And look at the Scottish soldiers, seamen and airmen who serve in the Armed Forces.  They do that because it serves both their nation, and their state.  That role is one of protection, but also a chance to help make a difference in a wider arena

Because it isn’t just Scotland and Britain as entities that benefit, it’s individual Scots as well. By being British citizens it’s possible for Scots to be able to make a real difference across the world.  There is nothing to stop a Scot from joining the army, or the Foreign Office where they can affect international politics.  The United Kingdom is still a major power, one of the world’s largest economies, a permanent Security Council member, with one of the most effective diplomatic and military corps on the planet.

Scots influence the direction of a great nation.  That is something we would lose if we lost the Union.

Unfortunately, small independent nations don’t have that influence.  Look at the impact of the credit crisis upon Scotland and Ireland.  In Scotland our banks were recapitalised by the UK Government.  That protected jobs, protected the savings of millions, and ensured Scotland was spared the economic disaster which engulfed the (regrettably named) Arc of Prosperity.  The Irish Banking sector was also bailed out, but much later, and without the guarantees which RBS and HBOS received.

The reason why we are better off is simple.  Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, and that means the United Kingdom owes duties towards Scotland.  Our security and our economy are guaranteed.

Of course there are issues where one part of the Union has done better than another.  That is an argument for politicians to stand up for Scotland, not to give up on a partnership which has brought enormous advantage.

I am a Unionist because it is part of my identity.  It provides me, and every other Scot with amazing opportunities to change the world.  And being part of the United Kingdom allows us to be part of a greater country, one which is better able to face the threats, expected and unexpected, economic and security, which face us today.  Scotland and Britain benefit from the Union and I am very proud to defend it.

So there can be no doubt Scotland and Scots benefit enormously from being part of the Union.  I will never back down from defending the United Kingdom from separation.  But it shouldn’t be the only focus of Scottish political discussion.  I want to move the debate on.  That is why once the Scotland Bill becomes law I think we need to stop discussing political process and start talking about real issues.  That doesn’t mean there can never be any change in the devolution settlement afterwards, but it does mean we should work with the powers we have before evaluating whether more, or fewer powers are required.

I want this to be the decade when Scotland moves on from discussing devolution to making devolution work.  I want to use the powers the Scottish Parliament has to make my vision of Scotland a reality.  That means supporting families.  It means supporting aspiration, and encouraging entrepreneurs.  It means ensuring our streets are safe, our schools are the best, and that everyone receives the best healthcare available.

Scotland faces huge challenges over the next decade.  It is up to politicians to work on facing these real challenges, not engaging in unnecessary discourse.  Scotland deserves better.

As a Conservative, I am an optimist. I believe we can overcome the challenges Scotland faces.  But there is no doubt it will be easier to accomplish as part of a strong United Kingdom.  That is why I am proud to be Scottish, Conservative, and Unionist.


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