John McLellan: It’s time for a new generation to take reigns of Scottish Tories

Miles Briggs has been touted as a future leader.
Miles Briggs has been touted as a future leader.
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We need to see it as an opportunity, not a threat, writes Scottish Tory Councillor John McLellan.

No-one who attended the Scottish Conservative Conference in Aberdeen in May would have failed to notice the warmth, affection and relief when Ruth Davidson delivered a barn-storming speech to mark her return from maternity leave; plenty of raw meat to gee up the members but also packed with policy initiatives to signal she was a leader with a plan for government.

But those who knew how much Ruth valued her family life, who knew a family of her own is something she has cherished for years, wondered how she could maintain the same energy, enthusiasm and political stamina which had brought her UK-wide prominence over the previous eight years.

She also faced going back to being on the receiving end of a daily torrent of social media abuse, but, for the first time, with hardline Brexiteers amongst them.

Politics cost her a long-term relationship at the start of her leadership and so she was fully aware of the toll it can take. Even before the arrival of her baby son it was clear that her personal well-being was an absolute priority.

This week’s political events have had nothing to do with her decision but, as her resignation letter made clear, it was everything to do with the prospect of a general election, a Scottish election and maybe even two referendums. After eight years on the front line of campaign after campaign she has, as they say in sport, left nothing on the pitch.

The debt the Scottish party owes her is enormous, illustrated by the army of elected representatives, amongst whom I am one, but there is no point looking for the next Ruth Davidson because we will never find one. Nor is it a second chance for Murdo Fraser to grab the prize some of his followers still believe was snatched from his grasp in 2011. This leadership contest should not be is an inward-looking wrangle about the shape of the party, but a fight for the Union and the promotion of a right-of-centre programme with wealth creation for all at its heart. We need to see it as an opportunity, not a threat. The new leader must come from the new generation which has developed under her leadership.

For Ruth, her skills as a communicator will surely mean she has a very bright future for life after politics, but all that matters is that she, Jen and Finn are content. That’s the least she deserves after eight years in which she has helped transform Scottish public life.