Borders MSP John Lamont has welcomed the decision of grass roots Conservatives to elect Ruth Davidson, the Glasgow MSP who spent the first years of her life in Selkirk, to lead the party in Scotland.
The 32-year-old former journalist polled 41 per cent of the vote in the first round of the contest which ended the challenge of two of her three rivals – Jackson Carlaw and Margaret Mitchell – on Friday.
In the final round, she defeated Murdo Fraser, the Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, by 2,983 votes to 2,417, a majority of 566 over a contender who wanted the party in Scotland to split from the UK Tories to form a new centre-right organisation. The turnout at the election, open to all 8,900 card-carrying party members north of the border, was 64 per cent.
Ms Davidson, who only entered Holyrood in May, was born in Edinburgh in the days before the Borders General Hospital and when Selkirk, where her father Douglas was a mill manager, no longer had maternity facilities.
The family lived in the town and Ms Davidson attended Knowepark School until primary three while her father, who had played professional football for Partick Thistle in his younger days, became a midfield stalwart in the all-conquering Selkirk FC side of the late ’70s and ’80s.
The family left the Borders for Fife when Mr Davidson took a job in the whisky industry, his daughter later graduating from Edinburgh University before working as a journalist, presenter and documentary maker with the BBC. A former Sunday school teacher, she served for three years in the Territorial Army and worked as head of outgoing leader Annabel Goldie’s private office before being elected in May.
After her victory was announced, Ms Davidson was congratulated by Prime Minister David Cameron who said: “I am delighted to congratulate Ruth on winning this leadership election and look forward to working with her to strengthen the Union and build a better future for Scotland.”
Ms Davidson said in a statement: “With the radical, generational change that I represent, this is a unique opportunity for us to rebuild the party and to once again become a powerful, meaningful and relevant force in Scottish politics and Scottish life.
“Our loyal and hard-working members in the associations and constituencies are the lifeblood of our party, but there has been a failure to fully involve them both in policy development and party management and strategy. This will now change.
“The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is very much alive and kicking.
“That has been clear in the exhilarating debate we have had during this campaign. It is now up to all of us to build on that momentum and drive the party forward to a new and exciting age of success.”
Mr Lamont, the MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, and Ms Davidson’s campaign manager, said she was “the best person to champion our cause”.
“Ruth is a proud Conservative who will stand up for Tory values such as hard work, personal responsibility, enterprise and fairness,” Mr Lamont told us.
“She represents a fresh start for the party and as a young, professional woman she embodies the very voters we have to convince if we are to start winning again.
“Over the last weeks we fought a positive campaign and I am pleased the membership has seized this opportunity to put the party back on the winning tracks.
“Ruth has already made a strong start as leader and will fight hard to keep Scotland as part of the UK and stand up to Alex Salmond’s independence agenda.”
Ms Davidson’s accession was also welcomed by John Greenwell, chairman of the party’s constituency association.
“I am absolutely thrilled she has been successful,” said Mr Greenwell. “This means we have voted for a generational change. I am looking forward to a period of hard work to put into place the remaining recommendations of the Sanderson Commission still to be implemented and supporting our new leader in her endeavours to rebuild our party. We are all looking forward to the future with some excitement.”
Meanwhile, Mr Lamont has hit back at Paul McBride QC, the Tories’ legal adviser in Scotland who resigned from the party at the weekend, citing his disgust at its opposition to the SNP’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Theatening Communications (Scotland) Bill.
“This has nothing to do with Ruth [Davidson] winning,” said Mr McBride. “I resigned over their [the Conservatives’] performance on criminal justice, in particular their approach to the legislation on sectarianism.”
And of Mr Lamont, who is the party’s justice spokesman, Mr McBride said: “That twit has opposed every single initiative [justice minister] Kenny MacAskill has come out with and hasn’t offered one positive suggestion to deal with crime.”
Mr Lamont responded: “It is surprising that a leading QC such as Mr McBride should fail to understand why MSPs – Conservative, Lib Dem, Green and Margo Macdonald – all take the view that the Scottish Government’s proposed anti-sectarian legislation as it is currently framed is weak and unfocused, and may cause more harm than good if it becomes law.
“Perhaps Paul should stick to plying his trade as a criminal lawyer rather than dabbling in politics. After all, he seems a little confused about which party suits his position, having left the Labour Party to join the Scottish Conservatives and now he is moving on again.
“I fear his outburst at the weekend has damaged him much more than any of his intended targets.”