Posts Tagged Ruth Davidson MSP

EXCLUSIVE: Ruth Davidson – why I’m proud to be Scottish and British

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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Ruth Davidson will be the next Scottish Tory leader

At the risk of giving the Scottish Conservatives far more ether-coverage than they are used to, or they deserve, another blogpost from me on their leadership contest.

So far there isn’t actually a contest, what with Jackson Carlaw MSP, the only one to show his hand. But you read it here first. Ruth Davidson will win.

Reliable sources, as they say, advise that she will stand and that she is garnering support from some of the party’s big guns. Apparently, the constituency party with the most members, Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire (John Lamont MSP’s seat), will vote for her. So too will David Mundell MP’s seat, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. Ditto John Scott MSP’s Ayr.

And these three constituencies count for big swathes of the party’s membership. It also indicates that not only does Ms Davidson carry the outgoing leader, Annabel Goldie’s, patronage but support from some of the party’s biggest hitters. In a party of 15 MSPs and 1 MP, she has effectively sewn up a quarter of that high level support. No doubt there are others in the wings too. Struan Stevenson MEP touted her leadership qualities when Malc and I caught up with him in Strasbourg in June (as you do) so there’s another of the party’s elected representatives in her court. And Struan’s a popular figure whose opinion will also count.

Anyone with a geography O/standard grade will have worked out that so far Ms Davidson’s support is from the South of Scotland. Murdo Fraser MSP is also likely to stand and no doubt he will pick up most of his support from his North East – ahem – heartlands. Like Jackson Carlaw, though, he’s tainted. While he has bestrode (bestridden?) this part of Scotland like a colossus, traditionally Tory territory has fallen to the Nats. Like snaw off a dyke, as the FM might, and probably did, say.

During his tenure as Depute Tory leader, his patch has been put through the wringer and turned totally yellow. They don’t count SNP votes anymore in these constituencies, they weigh them. Moreover, there appears to be a bit of a move on in the party to keep Murdo out. And anyone who has ever stood for political election, either internally or externally, knows you care little about why people vote for you, you just want them to vote for you. Ms Davidson therefore will accept such anti-Murdo votes with a gracious smile.

Moreover, Ruth Davidson represents the future face of Scottish Conservatism. Too young to be tainted by Thatcher, she might finally make the break with the past and allow the Tories to turn their fortunes around. Or at least that’s the thinking. Whether or not she will manage it remains to be seen – bigger political Tory beasts than her have tried and failed.

If she becomes leader – and she will, or I’ll eat someone’s hat – the Scottish Conservatives will have the youngest party leader, be the only party in Scotland not only to have a woman at the helm but to do it twice and moreover, elect a lesbian to the position. There are so many ironies in this I don’t know where to start. Progressive Torydom. Even in the Shires. Who knew?

For these and many more reasons, hers will be a remarkable election. She’s only been an MSP for a few months. Her rise may have been stratospheric, but she has undoubted qualities. Articulate and media savvy, she will inject something different into our political discourse. Cybernats will no doubt scoff at her prospects against the First Minister every week but I wouldn’t write her off. Going toe to toe with him is bound to end in disaster, but as Annabel has shown many times in recent years, there are other ways to get attention, get your point across and importantly, get under Alex Salmond’s skin.

Ruth Davidson is probably more centred politically than many on the right would like. That will make for an interesting conversation. While the rest of Europe lurches rightwards, including our ain dear UK Parliament, Scotland will have proven definitively that it is on a quite different political course. Her election will undoubtedly make it easier for the Scottish Tories to establish clear blue water from their UK counterparts – and hopefully detoxify their brand from the government’s activities that are not finding favour with Scots voters – but we await clues to see how this might pan out in policy terms.

But the most urgent task at hand is the implementation of the Sanderson review. The party needs overhaul at every level and in every sphere, to bring it out of the 1970s and into the 21st Century. Only when it has achieved this, can it seriously begin to think about political renewal. No doubt Ruth Davidson supports the review’s recommendations but does she have the mettle to push them through?

Such activity requires an attention to detail and a knowledge of what to do and when – qualities that John Swinney demonstrated in abundance during his ill-fated SNP leadership, during which he managed to push through a centralised membership scheme and also one member, one vote in all internal elections. This was no accident: his longterm membership and service in key party roles, particularly as National Secretary, served as a useful apprenticeship to achieving such fundamental structural changes. Does Ruth Davidson have the same organisational skills to bring to the fore?

The Scottish Conservatives have no doubt spent their summer chattering amongst themselves and one hopes garnering an inkling on what the three likely candidates think about stuff. And while these are the only votes that count for now, Ruth Davidson might like to share some of her thoughts on stuff with the rest of us. It would be bizarre indeed to greet a new Tory leader without knowing her views on well, anything.

And while the prospect of such a vibrant, youthful unknown leading one of Scotland’s main parties provides a frisson of excitement, I wonder if Ruth Davidson might just be peaking too soon? The Tories are in transition and such leadership stipends rarely last long enough to reap gains from any reforms enacted or attempted. Ask the afore-mentioned John Swinney. And Wendy Alexander.

Which makes John Lamont’s decision to sit out this round of musical chairs, and instead, throw his hat (and constituency votes) behind the most likely contender to defeat his shot at the next leadership election seem very shrewd indeed.

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