The election of a new leader to replace Annabel Goldie at the helm of our party is a golden opportunity to demonstrate to Scotland that we are ready to win again.
After 12 years of devolution, the Scottish Conservative Party and our nation are at a crossroads. We can either stand by and help to accelerate Alex Salmond’s drive to independence or we can stand up and put forward the positive case for Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom.
That is why I reject calls for our Party in Scotland to declare independence. That is playing right into Alex Salmond's hands. How on earth can we credibly campaign for Scotland in Britain if we rip ourselves out of our own union? We have to stop obsessing about ourselves and start talking to Scotland about the issues which matter to them. We have to demonstrate real change by electing a new leader who embodies that real change.
There has been much media speculation about who would stand to replace Annabel and my name was raised on more than one occasion. I have chosen not to stand so that I can concentrate on work in my constituency of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire. I held this new seat in May, more than doubling the majority I secured in its predecessor of Roxburgh and Berwickshire. I have seen and know what it takes to win again in Scotland. I understand acutely that we need a leader who can replicate what I’ve done in my constituency across Scotland as a whole.
We need a new leader who can demonstrate by word and by action that we matter in Scottish politics and that we can be a party of power once again. We need a new leader who can take our proud Conservative values and make them relevant to Scotland today. We need a leader who won’t run away from the Union or gamble its future on risky theories like fiscal autonomy or federalism. A leader who can be a winner and who can grasp this chance to unite us – one Scottish leader for all the party. Someone who is Scottish, Conservative and Unionist.
Losing votes and seats at every election simply isn’t good enough. We can do better and Scotland needs us to do better. After all, a political party that cannot win votes is just a bunch of people talking to themselves. The next decade is when we move forward, restart our conversation with the voters, and learn how to win again.
We need to engage modern 21st century Scotland. That means talking the language of aspiration, opportunity, and achievement. Every country must have a vibrant, viable right-of-centre party; a party to champion freedom, choice, personal responsibility, and strong communities. We need a leader who can articulate these values to modern Scotland.
Modern Scotland isn’t going to look at us again until we look at ourselves again. What is it about this once formidable election winning machine – the only party ever to win a majority of votes in Scotland – that when people see us out campaigning they cross to the other side of the street? We need a leader who can engage with these voters, who can make conservatism relevant and appealing to them.
We need a leader who can win.
That is why I am supporting Ruth Davidson MSP for leader.
She is exactly what the Scottish Tories need in a leader. She is a proud Conservative who will stand up for Tory values: hard work, personal responsibility, enterprise, and fairness. But she is also that thing we need most of all: a fresh face. A new start. The next generation. Someone who can ‘talk Tory’ to people who’ve long since given up on us or never gave us a thought in the first place.
She embodies like no one else in Scottish politics the very voters we have to convince if we’re to start winning again: young, professional, patriotic, and aspirational.
And anyone who says she doesn’t have enough experience exposes exactly the mentality we need to overcome. No, she hasn’t been an MSP for years on end. She hasn’t spent her life in politics. She’s been out there working in the real world, the world where the voters work.
She had a distinguished decade-long career as a broadcaster. She has served the country she loves in the Territorial Army. She has been active in her church, giving up her time to teach Sunday school.
Ruth understands the priorities and concerns of ordinary voters. She can appeal to a modern Scotland bored of politics-as-usual and looking for a different kind of politician. She has demonstrated throughout her life that she is a winner. Somebody who will strive to overcome adversity, stick to her principles and be a tireless advocate of the causes she supports.
I have seen Ruth close up. I have seen her talent and recognised her promise. I have witnessed her mettle. She is a passionate and devoted Conservative, a gut-instinct Tory who knows where she stands. Her politics are anchored by an unwavering dedication to our Union and to strengthening Scotland’s place within the Union. And she is utterly committed to this party.
Ruth is somebody who embodies the qualities which our party and our country need. She has deep passion, unbounded energy, fantastic communications skills, and a first class intellect. Ruth offers a new face to Scottish Conservatism and a breath of fresh air to Scottish politics.
She is the only leader who can win for us with the wider electorate.
I have been proud to serve under Annabel. I would be every bit as proud to serve under Ruth and help her take this party forward.