Ruth Davidson makes journey from Territorial Army signaller to Tory peer

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A kickboxing lesbian who has served with the Territorial Army, Ruth Davidson is far from the traditional image of a Conservative politician.

But she managed to transform both the image and the fortunes of the Tories north of the border after taking over the party’s leadership as a relative newcomer at Holyrood.

After almost eight years in the job she quit suddenly in August 2019, not long after returning from maternity leave following the birth of her son Finn in October the previous year.

Ruth Davidson (left) and her partner Jen Wilson became parents in October 2018 (Scottish Conservatives/PA)

Prior to the birth of her child, she said she did not think becoming a parent would affect her political career, and that her pregnancy would show it was normal for same-sex couples to have children.

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 then Scottish Conservative leader took charge of a tank during the 2015 election campaign (Andrew Milligan/PA)

When the then Scottish leader Annabel Goldie resigned two months later, Ms Davidson ran for the job against three more experienced MSPs – and won.

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.

She came to the fore during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, which finished with the No side winning by 55% to 45%.

She also attracted national attention during the 2016 Brexit referendum, clashing with now Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a TV debate.

The then Scottish Conservative leader joined forces with Sadiq Khan to take on Boris Johnson in a TV debate ahead of the Brexit referendum (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

In the run up to polling day, Ms Davidson, an energetic campaigner, rode a buffalo, played ice hockey, pulled pints and drove a crane.

Ms Davidson, a former Territorial Army signaller who served in Kosovo, repeated her success in the 2017 general election – when the Tories’ revived performance in Scotland helped keep the then prime minister Theresa May in Downing street.

Going into that election, the Tories had just one MP in Scotland, but another strong performance from them saw 13 Scottish Conservatives returned to Westminster – although this total was reduced to six in December last year under her successor Jackson Carlaw.

Her book Yes She Can, published in 2018, 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, but is now heading for the House of Lords, after giving up her Edinburgh Central seat at Holyrood ahead of the 2021 Scottish elections.

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