Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson quits, citing Brexit and family

Ruth Davidson said she would continue to support the party, the prime minister and Scotland's place in the United Kingdom.
Ruth Davidson said she would continue to support the party, the prime minister and Scotland's place in the United Kingdom.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP/REUTERS) - Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who turned her party’s fortunes around in Scotland, said she was resigning on Thursday (Aug 29), a day after the government announced it was suspending Parliament ahead of a Brexit deadline.

Davidson, who supported staying in the European Union in the 2016 referendum, said she was stepping down mainly to be with her new son and partner, but also mentioned “the conflict I have felt over Brexit” in a statement on Twitter. 

Davidson, a charismatic politician who was once seen as a potential national leader of the Conservative Party, said she intended to remain a member of the Scottish Parliament.  The 40-year-old led a resurgence of the Conservatives in Scotland during her eight years in charge, providing a counterweight to Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish National Party and winning key seats to help the party retain power in Westminster.

Davidson has been a strong critic of a no-deal Brexit – a prospect that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not ruled out if no agreement is reached with the EU by Oct 31. 

She said she believed Johnson’s assurances that he was trying to get a new deal with the European Union and urged parliamentary colleagues to approve it if he did so.  She urged lawmakers in London to work towards a Brexit deal, and said she supported Mr Johnson's efforts to that end.

“Prime minister, get us a deal with the European Union,” she told reporters in Edinburgh, adding that MPs should “for God’s sake, get behind it”. 

“I stand foursquare behind the prime minister’s attempts to bring back a deal,” she said.

Johnson has said Britain will leave the European Union with or without a deal on Oct 31, and on Wednesday he enraged opponents by limiting parliamentary time to halt no deal.


"While I have not hidden the conflict I have felt over Brexit, I have attempted to chart a course for our party which recognises and respects the referendum result, while seeking to maximise opportunities and mitigate risks for key Scottish businesses and sectors," she said in a letter to the chairman of the Scottish party.

She added that "having tried to be a good leader over the years, I have proved a poor daughter, sister, partner and friend".

The unity of the United Kingdom depends on mutual respect that has been lacking in political debate over Brexit, she said.

"Respect is what is missing from our debates, and without respect you cannot have understanding and you cannot unite which is what we in Scotland and in the UK need to do," Davidson said.