Ruth Davidson

The Right Honourable
Ruth Davidson
Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party
Assumed office
4 November 2011
Deputy Jackson Carlaw
Preceded by Annabel Goldie
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Edinburgh Central
Assumed office
6 May 2016
Preceded by Marco Biagi
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Glasgow
(1 of 7 Regional MSPs)
In office
6 May 2011  6 May 2016
Personal details
Born Ruth Elizabeth Davidson
(1978-11-10) 10 November 1978
Edinburgh, Scotland
Political party Conservative
Domestic partner Jen Wilson
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
University of Glasgow
Religion Church of Scotland
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Territorial Army
Years of service 2003–06
Rank Signaller

Ruth Elizabeth Davidson (born 10 November 1978) is a Scottish politician who is currently the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, the Leader of the Opposition in the Scottish Parliament, and the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Central.

After graduating from Edinburgh University, she worked as a BBC journalist and signaller in the Territorial Army. After leaving the BBC in 2009 to study at Glasgow University, Davidson joined the Conservative Party, and was the party's candidate in the Glasgow North East constituency at a 2009 by-election and at the 2010 general election, finishing in 3rd and 4th place respectively, with approximately 5% of the vote.

In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, Davidson stood for election in the Glasgow Kelvin constituency and on the Glasgow regional list. She finished in 4th place in the former, but was successful in the latter, and following party leader Annabel Goldie's resignation in May 2011, Davidson stood in the subsequent leadership election. She won the contest and was declared party leader on 4 November 2011.[1]


Davidson was born at the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion in Edinburgh and was raised in Selkirk and later in Fife. Davidson has lived in Glasgow for most of her adult life. Her family lived in Bridgelands Road, Selkirk, and Davidson attended Knowepark Primary School until primary three. Her father, Douglas, a mill manager at Laidlaw & Fairgrieve, had played professional football for Partick Thistle F.C. in his younger days and was a midfielder in Selkirk F.C. during the late 1970s and early 1980s. When her father took a job in the whisky industry, the family left the Borders for Fife, where she attended Buckhaven High School.[2][3]

She went on to study English literature[4][5] at the University of Edinburgh, gaining a Master of Arts (MA) degree.[6]

Early career

After graduation, she joined the Glenrothes Gazette as a trainee reporter. She later moved to Kingdom FM followed by Real Radio and finally joined BBC Scotland in late 2002 where she worked as a radio journalist, producer, presenter and reporter. She left the BBC in 2009 to study International Development at the University of Glasgow.[3][7]

She served as a Signaller in the Territorial Army for three years (2003–06) before suffering a back injury in a training exercise at Sandhurst.[8] She was also a Sunday school teacher.[3][7]

Political career

Westminster elections

In 2009 after having left the BBC to study at Glasgow University, Davidson joined the Conservative Party. She said she was inspired by David Cameron's call, in the wake of the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, for people who had never been political before to get involved. She was encouraged by the Scottish Conservative Party's Director of Media Ramsay Jones[9] to join the party and stand for the Westminster constituency of Glasgow North East at the 2009 by-election, which was triggered by the resignation of Labour MP and Speaker of the House, Michael Martin. She came in third with 5.2% of the vote, losing to Labour's Willie Bain.

She tried again unsuccessfully in the same seat at the 2010 general election, coming fourth with 5.3% of the vote.[10][11]

Aide to Annabel Goldie

From early 2010 to March 2011 she worked as the head of the private office of the then Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie.[12] She played a large part in the organisation of campaign media events at the 2010 general election.

Scottish Parliament

For the 2011 Scottish parliament election, Davidson was selected in September 2010[13] to contest the Glasgow Kelvin constituency and was initially placed only second on the Conservatives' Glasgow region list, behind Malcolm Macaskill, a Glasgow businessman and party member for over 30 years. This would have made it very unlikely that Davidson would have been able to be elected to the Scottish Parliament, as the Glasgow regional list typically returns only 1 Conservative member.[14]

However, with only a couple of months to go, newspaper stories appeared in March 2011 that questioned Macaskill's past business history.[14][15] It was revealed that Macaskill failed to fully disclose his business career on his CV to party members ahead of a 2010 internal party selection contest.[16][17] The Party chairman Andrew Fulton then decided that Macaskill was to be deselected, thereby promoting Davidson to the first position in the Glasgow regional list.[14]

Subsequently Davidson, although coming a distant fourth in Glasgow Kelvin, was elected to the Scottish Parliament on the Glasgow region list.[18] After the election, she was appointed by Goldie as the Conservative spokesperson for Culture, Europe and External Relations.[3]

In September 2015, following a year long police investigation into allegations pro-Union campaigners, including Davidson, had breached secrecy provisions of the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 during the Scottish independence referendum detectives reported their findings to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.[19] Police Scotland stated in reference to the report that no evidence of criminality was found and consequently there was no charge to answer.[20]

Leadership of the Scottish Conservative Party

Following the resignation of Annabel Goldie as Scottish Conservative leader on 9 May 2011, Davidson became a contender in the leadership election.[21] Her rivals later claimed that Davidson received assistance from Party headquarters,[14] though her supporters stated that these claims were part of a smear campaign.[14] She stood against three other candidates – Murdo Fraser, Jackson Carlaw and Margaret Mitchell. Fraser stood on a platform of separating the Scottish Conservatives from the UK-wide party and establishing a new Scottish centre-right party. Davidson announced her candidacy on 4 September and vehemently opposed Fraser's proposals to separate the party, calling it a "distraction" which would "tie the party in knots".[22]

Davidson's campaign was endorsed by two MSPs: John Lamont (her campaign manager) and John Scott; the Conservatives' only Scottish MP and Scotland Office Minister David Mundell; party grandees, Sir Albert McQuarrie, former Chairman of the UK Conservative party Marquess of Lothian Michael Ancram, former Scottish Office Minister and Scottish party chairman Lord Sanderson, former Secretary of State for Scotland Lord Forsyth, Leader of the House of Lords Lord Strathclyde; and former MSP and Holyrood deputy presiding officer Murray Tosh. Despite being a List MSP for Glasgow, she failed to gain the endorsement of a single chairperson of any of the five Conservative Constituency Associations in Glasgow[9] and over half the MSP group had supported Murdo Fraser.[23]

On 11 September 2011, Davidson sacked her election agent and parliamentary assistant Ross McFarlane after he was filmed trying to burn a European Union flag in a Glasgow street following a University Conservative Association (GUCA), St. Andrews Day dinner in November 2010.[24] On 5 October 2011, the Scottish Conservative media director Ramsay Jones was suspended from his duties during the leadership contest, after it was revealed that he had met Davidson and her campaign team in her flat on Sunday, 18 September.[25][26]

Davidson subsequently won the leadership election and was made the leader of the Scottish Conservatives on 4 November 2011. She gained 2,278 first preference votes out of the 5,676 votes cast, after second preference votes were counted, she won by 2,983 votes to second-placed Murdo Fraser's 2,417.[1] This sparked some discontent within the party, with prominent party supporter Paul McBride resigning the party[27] and party donor John McGlynn criticised her election, saying that she was elected through 'interference'.[28]

Davidson was appointed to the Privy Council on 13 July 2016.[29][30]

2016 Scottish election

Davidson led the Scottish Conservatives into the 2016 Scottish election, where the party increased its number of Scottish Parliament seats to 31, replacing Labour as the second largest party at Holyrood behind the Scottish National Party.[31] The election also saw Davidson, who had previously been a list MSP, win the constituency of Edinburgh Central from the SNP with 10,399 votes. Reacting to the result Davidson 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."[32]

Policies and views


In 2016, she challenged the hard-right pro-Brexit wing of the Conservative Party by telling the party conference that "immigrants should be made to feel welcome in the UK" and the party should not lurch to the Right in the wake of Labour's implosion". She argued that the UK should seek access to the European Single Market even if that means accepting free movement.[33]

Justice and devolution

She supports judges being given the ability to effectively convict perpetrators of 'the most heinous, cruel and vile' crimes with a life sentence, with the intent that they are never released.[34] Davidson also calls for an end to the automatic release of prisoners, and believes that alcohol and drug consumption should not grant more lenient sentencing to people who have committed crimes.[35]

Davidson has stated she wanted the Scottish parliament to be accountable for up to 40% of what it spends. This was a reverse of a previous view she expressed, as she was elected on a platform that there should be a "line drawn in the sand", as she opposed any further devolution. She later said "Conservatives were wrong to oppose the idea of a Scottish Parliament during the campaign for devolution, which was delivered in 1999."[36]

Business and infrastructure

Davidson has proposed that any start-up company whose rateable value was below £18,000, should be incentivised by being given an initial 2-year ability to avoid paying business rates.[37] She also emphasises the necessity for proper infrastructure in rural areas, particularly with regard to ferry links.[38]

She supports the Scottish video games industry and opposed the proposal to deny tax breaks to the industry.[39]

Education and Early Learning

During her leadership campaign, Davidson stated that in the 0–5 age category, children should be granted more hours in early years centres, so as to meet the needs of 'hard-working families'.[40] She supports state-funded Roman Catholic schooling in Scotland, and believes the Church of Scotland should open its own faith schools as well.[41]

European Union

Before the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum held 23 June 2016, she campaigned against a possible UK exit from the European Union, known as Brexit.[42][43][44] On 21 June 2016, she participated in the BBC's Wembley Arena Debate, as a panellist for the remain side with Frances O'Grady and Sadiq Khan; and opposite Boris Johnson, Gisela Stuart and Andrea Leadsom, who argued for the leave campaign.[45] The referendum saw the United Kingdom narrowly vote to leave the European Union, while 62% in Scotland backed remaining in the EU. Following the announcement of the result, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon suggested the constitutional change it would bring about justified the need for a second referendum on Scottish independence, but Davidson said this would not be the answer to concerns raised by the prospect of leaving the European Union: "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". She also called on the UK and Scottish Governments to work together and put "stability" first.[46][47]

Social issues

Davidson has stated that she supports same-sex marriage, but believes religious institutions should not be forced to carry out the ceremonies should it conflict with their views.[48] She urged Ireland to vote Yes in the 2015 constitutional vote to enable same-sex marriage.[49]

2016 Conservative leadership election

Following the success of the Scottish Conservatives at the May 2016 Scottish election, in which the party doubled its number of MSPs, a Guardian article noted that "some in Westminster see [Davidson] as a potential future leader, who could broaden the party’s appeal and help tackle perceptions it is on the side of the privileged". However, Davidson dismissed the suggestion in an interview with The House magazine, describing the role of prime minister as “the loneliest job in the world”.[50] But she did not rule out the prospect of becoming an MP, saying she would only do so "for now".[51] In the Conservative leadership contest triggered by the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, Davidson gave her backing to Home Secretary Theresa May to succeed him as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, describing May as a "proper grown up [who is] best placed to navigate the stormy waters ahead".[52]

Personal life

On 18 February 2015, Davidson appeared in a groundbreaking party election broadcast in which she was seen with her same-sex partner Jen Wilson, a 33-year-old woman of Irish background.[53][54] Later in 2015, and in an interview with BBC Radio Scotland she spoke about struggling with her sexuality: "I struggled with it 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."[55] Davidson announced her engagement to Wilson in May 2016.[56]

Davidson is a member of the Church of Scotland and counts dog walking, hillwalking and kickboxing as her hobbies.[57][58] She supports Scottish football club Dunfermline Athletic.[59]

On 23 October 2015, Davidson became the first female Scottish politician to appear as a panellist on the BBC One satirical news quiz Have I Got News for You.[60]


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  2. "After Brownlee, another Knoweparker lines up to lead the Scottish Tories – Dunfermline and West Fife". Fife Today. Johnston Publishing Ltd. 1 October 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "The Scottish Parliament profile: Ruth Davidson". 25 August 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
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  28. "Tory donor John McGlynn's concern over new leader". BBC News Scotland. 8 November 2011.
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  30. Privy Council appointments: Arlene Foster, Ruth Davidson, David Gauke and Ed Vaizey, 10 Downing Street (July 13, 2016).
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  33. "Ruth Davidson challenges 'hard' Brexit Tories by arguing immigrants must be welcomed".
  34. "Conservatives call for whole-life jail sentences". STV. 24 November 2011.
  35. "Davidson calls for sentencing changes". Ruth Davidson. 20 September 2011.
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  38. "Ruth: I will be a champion for the Highlands and Islands". Ruth Davidson. 14 October 2011.
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  41. Geen, Jessica (20 September 2011). "Lesbian would-be Tory leader Ruth Davidson wants more faith schools". Pink News.
  42. Ruth Davidson enjoys her Nicola Sturgeon moment in EU debate
  43. the / Susie Boniface: Ruth Davidson was the star at Wembley. Can’t we have more politicians like her? (opinion)
  44. The Daily Telegraph online 22 June 2016: Ruth Davidson's rise is about much more than the EU referendum or the Conservative leadership
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  56. "Scottish Tory Leader Davidson Gets Engaged".
  57. "Current MSPs". Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
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  60. Brocklehurst, Steven (23 October 2015). "Have they got news for Ruth Davidson?". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 23 October 2015.

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Annabel Goldie
Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party
Scottish Parliament
Preceded by
Marco Biagi
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Edinburgh Central

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