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Ruth Davidson: The leader who transformed Tory fortunes in Scotland

The 40-year-old is expected to announce her intention to stand down on Thursday.

Ruth Davidson is credited with transforming the Scottish Conservatives’ image since taking charge (Jane Barlow/PA)
Ruth Davidson is credited with transforming the Scottish Conservatives’ image since taking charge (Jane Barlow/PA)

By Conor Riordan, PA Scotland

Ruth Davidson is expected to end her term as leader of the Scottish Conservatives after more than eight years in the post.

Rumours the 40-year-old Edinburgh Central MSP would stand down surfaced on Wednesday, the same day it was confirmed the UK Parliament would be suspended until weeks before the Brexit deadline.

Credited with transforming the party’s image north of the border since taking charge, she has been described as an energetic campaigner and colourful on-screen character.

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Ms Davidson, centre left, celebrating her leadership win in 2011 alongside contender Murdo Fraser, centre right (David Cheskin/PA)

Ms Davidson took her first steps towards a life in politics when she joined the Tories in 2009, having previously worked as a journalist.

The 2011 Scottish Parliament elections saw her take a seat from the Glasgow region list.

Two months later, the then-party leader Annabel Goldie announced she would quit the post and Ms Davidson stood for the position.

The self-proclaimed “tough old bird” won the election and became party leader in November that year, gaining 2,278 first preference votes out of the 5,676 cast.

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Ms Davidson during the 2015 General Election campaign (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Since then, she has widely been credited with changing the party’s image to being more socially liberal, supporting LGBT rights and favouring extending same-sex marriage equality to Northern Ireland.

Ms Davidson was at the helm during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, which finished with the No side winning by 55% to 45%.

The 2016 Holyrood elections saw the Scottish Conservative Party position itself as the main unionist party, in which it gained the second-highest number of seats in parliament.

She had switched to the Edinburgh Central constituency for that vote.

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Boris Johnson and Ms Davidson embrace after an EU referendum debate (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

During the campaign she rode a buffalo, played ice hockey, pulled pints and drove a crane.

In the 2016 Brexit referendum, she supported remaining in the EU, but after the result she called for a soft withdrawal.

The former Territorial Army signaller has publicly said she would not support a no-deal exit from the EU.

Ms Davidson has also received praise for overseeing the Scottish Conservatives going from one MP to 13 in the 2017 General Election.

Her 2018 memoirs revealed she struggled with her mental health as a teenager, citing that as a reason she would not stand to be UK Conservative Party leader.

The Dunfermline Athletic fan had often been tipped to take up the post.

In October last year, she gave birth to a baby boy with her partner Jen Wilson.

At the time, she said she did not believe having a child would impact her political career and her pregnancy would show it was normal for same-sex couples to have children.

Ms Davidson supported Jeremy Hunt to succeed Theresa May as party leader in July 2019.

She said she would judge Boris Johnson on his time in office as Prime Minister, but admitted the two had clashed on issues such as Brexit.

A statement on her leadership position is expected on Thursday.

PA

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