In Depth

Who is Ruth Davidson - and why is she stepping down?

Scottish Conservatives leader quits following repeated criticisms of Boris Johnson’s Brexit handling

Ruth Davidson has quit as leader of the Scottish Conservatives after nearly eight years in the role.

Announcing her decision, Davidson said it had been the “privilege of my life” to lead the party for one of the most “remarkable and important periods of recent Scottish political history”.

Tory sources say her resignation is down to both the pressures of motherhood, after giving birth to a son last October, and her opposition to Boris Johnson’s handling of Brexit, not least his willingness to leave the EU without a deal, says The Guardian.

She will remain the Member of Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Central.

Davidson publicly backed Johnson’s rivals during the Tory leadership race after clashing with him in televised debates during the EU referendum campaign, when she accused his Leave campaign of telling “untruths” about the EU.

She also appeared to have been angered when, in one of his first acts as prime minister, Johnson sacked her close political ally and friend David Mundell, who served as Scottish secretary for five years. Writing in her Scottish Mail on Sunday column in July, Davidson said: “I will not be backward in challenging Mr Johnson’s government where I think they are getting it wrong.”

Shortly before she announced her resignation, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “If the rumours are true then the loss of Ruth Davidson as leader of the Scottish Conservatives will be a real blow to her party.

“This shows that even within his own ranks, Boris Johnson is already losing support and credibility. Scotland and the UK needs a general election as quickly as possible to oust him from Downing Street and elect a Labour government.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added: “It’s no surprise Ruth Davidson has run out of reasons to stand by this dangerous and power-hungry prime minister.”

What did she do before politics?

Davidson went into journalism after graduating from the University of Edinburgh with an MA in English Literature.

She worked as a reporter at the Glenrothes Gazette before moving to Kingdom FM, Real Radio, and finally BBC Scotland in 2002. She left the BBC in 2009 to study international development at the University of Glasgow.

Between 2003 and 2006, Davidson served in the Territorial Army as a signaller in the 32 Signal Regiment, before a back injury forced her to retire.

And since entering politics?

Davidson has enjoyed a meteoric rise since joining the Scottish Conservatives party just a decade ago.

She stood as the Tory candidate in the Glasgow North by-election in 2009, where she came in third place with 5.2% of the vote.

Davidson went on to win a seat in the Scottish Parliament as a regional MSP for Glasgow in 2011, and was elected leader of the Scottish Conservatives in November that year, at the age of 32. 

She is credited with sparking a surge in popularity for the Scottish Conservatives that saw the party nearly double its number of seats in the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections, while its number of MPs in Westminster rose from one to 13 in the 2017 general election.

Davidson has represented Edinburgh Central since 2016, after stepping down from the regional list to stand against the SNP incumbent in a by-election.

After taking the seat, she said: “I am under no illusion that everybody who voted for me in that seat is a true-blue, dyed-in-the wool Tory, and neither are they in places up and down Scotland. They are people who want us to do a very specific job, and that it is to hold the SNP to account.”

What are her views on Brexit?

Davidson was a prominent Remain campaigner in the 2016 EU referendum, and clashed with Johnson during a televised debate broadcast days before the vote.

However, she is against Scotland breaking away from the UK in order to stay in the European Union, despite 62% of the Scottish electorate voting Remain.

Following the 2016 EU referendum, she said: “The 1.6 million votes cast in this referendum in favour of Remain do not wipe away the two million votes that were cast less than two years ago [against Scottish indepedence].”

Where does she stand on other issues?

Davidson is a vocal supporter of legalising same-sex marriage and has been open about her own homosexuality. In the past, she has referred to LGBTQ rights as one thing she cares about more than her party, says the BBC.

In 2015, she said: “I struggled with [my sexuality] for a number of years actually before I would admit it to myself, never mind to anybody else.

“But there comes a point at which you make a decision and that decision is either that you’re going to live a lie for the rest of your life, or you’re going to trust yourself, and that’s what I had to do.”

She and her partner Jen Wilson welcomed their first child, Finn Paul, last year.

Davidson has also been an usually loud pro-immigration voice in the party, telling the Conservative Party conference in 2016 that “immigrants should be made to feel welcome in the UK”, according to The Independent.

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