Leader comment: Davidson must tell us what Tories stand for

Having shown what the Conservatives are against, Ruth Davidson now has to show what her party is in favour of.
Having shown what the Conservatives are against, Ruth Davidson now has to show what her party is in favour of.
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Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has been wildly successful at telling us what her party stands against. The simple message that Ms Davidson and her team would fight to block a second independence referendum cut through during last year’s Holyrood campaign, catapulting the Tories ahead of Labour and into second place.

And that pledge paid off again in June’s snap general election when the Conservatives made remarkable gains, ensuring unionist parties won the lion’s share of the vote.

Nobody who pays even the slightest attention to Scottish politics can be any doubt about the passion with which Ms Davidson opposes another vote on the constitution. But what Holyrood observers may be less sure of is what exactly it is that the Scottish Conservatives and their leader are in favour of (beyond, of course, the maintenance of the Union).

The Scottish Conservative leader campaigned in last year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections to become the main opposition at Holyrood. There were no outlandish promises to win the election, just the confident assertion that the Conservatives could overtake Labour. This was once unthinkable but now one might struggle to see how Labour can go about reversing this turn of events.

Having led her party to the position of being, comfortably, the largest opposition group at Holyrood, Ms Davidson’s logical next step is to make a pitch to become First Minister. The prospect of a Tory-led Scottish Government might seem unlikely but we live in turbulent times. If Ms Davidson is to develop from being a competent opposition leader to becoming a credible candidate to be First Minister, her party will have to tell us more – much more – about what it would do in power.

What would Ruth Davidson do to turn around declining standards in schools? How would she tackle assorted crises – from failure to hit targets to staff shortages – across the NHS? What are her ideas for boosting the economy?

Ms Davidson needs now to develop policies of substance and to describe to us how she would reform public services.

The issue of the constitution is now at the bottom of the political agenda in Scotland. It’s time now for Ms Davidson to show us whether she is more than a one-trick-pony with a gift for soundbites and photo opportunities.