The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, returned to her Borders homeland on Tuesday to tour the Hawick mill Johnstons of Elgin and Selkirk Rugby Club’s new all-weather sports pitch and gym, writes Sandy Neil.
“It’s great to be back in Selkirk,” said the 33-year-old Glasgow Kelvin MSP – who grew up in the town – while visiting the Philiphaugh ground: “I had a tour by local rugby hero John Rutherford. I don’t think everybody gets that.
“It’s a great resource for people in Selkirk – it’s something that’s clearly getting a lot of use and making a huge difference. John’s so proud that local volunteers from Selkirk built it.”
Expressing her party’s hopes for the local council elections on May 3, Ms Davidson said: “We’re hoping to still be the biggest group on Scottish Borders Council.
“Going around the whole country, not just in the Borders, it’s not local government issues that are coming up on the doorstep.
“The one that everyone is talking to me about is the United Kingdom.
“I just don’t see an overwhelming appetite for us to leave the most successful union in 300 years. I don’t sense it in the Borders, in Fife, in Glasgow, or in Edinburgh. People are comfortable being Scottish and British together.”
The Scottish Conservatives’ new leader, who was elected in Novemeber 2011, is hopeful of improving her party’s fortunes in Scotland.
“One of the things I talked about at our conference in Troon was how much we are changing as a party,” she said.
“We’re conducting the largest policy review of what it is we want to offer to a modern, relevant, 21st century Scotland since devolution. We really are looking at everything we do and how we do it. I believe we’ll be bringing forward a really comprehensive set of policies that will chime with people.”
Particularly close to her heart, she said, were rural affairs: “I grew up in Selkirk and then latterly in a village in the East Neuk of Fife, went off to university, came back to the village I did my high-schooling in, and I had to leave. I had to go to Glasgow if I wanted to continue my career. That’s not good enough.
“If you’ve got young people who want to stay, they’ve got to have opportunities. We’re missing something if that’s not happening in Scotland, and we’re emptying our young people in our cities.
“So that’s what we’re looking at, sustainable rural communities. We’ll have a launch quite soon.”
Asked if, like David Cameron, she’d dined with any top Tory donors recently, she replied: “As much as I might wish there is a wealthy playboy bankrolling the Scottish Conservative Party, I can assure you there isn’t one.
“We’ve a pretty transparent funding structure up here.
“The way that we’re looking to raise funds this year is to have a number of set-piece dinners – people can donate that way. Also all donations have to be registered with the electoral commission over a certain level. You can click on a website and look at it.”