Leader: Rare chance for Davidson to rebalance the Union

Ruth Davidson on College Green in Westminster. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty
Ruth Davidson on College Green in Westminster. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty
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Ruth Davidson hasn’t come away with a startling revelation when she says that the UK is “far too London-centric”.

The Scottish Conservative leader’s observation could have been made at any point in British history, and it will no doubt be just as applicable in another 100 years’ time. As the capital city of the UK, with the highest population density, and the closest proximity to mainland Europe, London will always be the winner in what Davidson calls a crazy imbalance with the rest of the UK.

But that does not mean the current position is as good as it is going to get, and Davidson is making the right noises by calling for the civil service and cultural bodies to be spread around the country, rather than contributing to London’s already over-heated economy. Getting action on this front is another matter. However, Davidson has an advantage over many of her predecessors, in that the Scottish Conservatives sent 13 MPs to Westminster this year, and for the first time in 30 years, the party north of the border has some clout in the UK parliament. Without those 13 MPs, Theresa May could not form a government, and where once the demands of Scottish MPs could be heard but then forgotten, the Prime Minister is in a position where she must take seriously all internal representations.

And in a further boost to her arm-twisting strength, Davidson finds herself riding high in the popularity stakes with party members, as a poll indicates she is second favourite to succeed May as Conservative leader, just behind Boris Johnson. The leader of the Scottish Tories has never had it so good.

Her message is one the UK government should heed. Standing up for the Union is all very well, but the Union represents devolved power, and if those relationships are neglected, then the Union doesn’t work. That’s not a position the Conservatives want to be in.

And if Davidson can’t apply effective pressure under the current circumstances in her favour, who ever could? Her call could turn out to be a pivotal test of her party’s commitment to Scotland.