‘Stands Scotland where it did?’ As the bottles circulated, we were able to answer Macduff’s question in much more optimistic terms than would have seemed possible even a month earlier, thanks to Ruth Davidson, the Malcolm Canmore of our age. It is extraordinary. Scottish Tories spent almost 20 years on the fringes of politics, marginalised and derided. During that black period, it was clear no other force in Scotland could be relied on to defend the Union. After the Nats’ triumph in 2015, an unpleasant version of Rousseau’s general will seem to have triumphed with it. If you did not support the SNP, you were not a proper Scot. If you were actually a Tory, you were a disgrace to Scotland. This was the darkest hour, with no apparent prospect of dawn.
The dawn did come, from a most improbable direction. Until recently, imagine if anyone had said that Scottish Toryism would be revived and the Union would find a new paladin: a 38-year-old lesbian who grew up on a council estate. There could only have been one sensible response: ‘Keep your voice down in case you are overheard. The lunatic asylums are full of patients less delusional than you.’
Cometh the hour, cometh the girl: the most implausible national revolutionary since Joan of Arc. Assuming that Ruth can avoid being burnt at the stake, she is a young politician of unlimited promise. If the Tory member for a safe southern seat were to drop dead today, lots of Tories would have the same idea. Propose her for a double candidacy: that seat, and the leader-ship. It is extraordinary to think that Tory morale is now much higher in Scotland than in England.
A political street fighter, Ruth is a tough and gallus lassie, but she has allowed all the grace-notes in the Scottish identity to express themselves.