Ruth Davidson is set to quit as leader of the Scottish Conservatives on Thursday. Davidson, who led the party to double-digit gains in both the Scottish parliamentary elections and in the general election in Westminister, will step down from her post in a development that further deepens the electoral pressures on the Conservative party in Scotland. Senior Tory sources confirmed the story, originally broken in the Scottish Sun.
Her exit from the role is the result of a cocktail of personal and political factors, but it is the political factors that are the most damaging to the Conservative party in the immediate short term. In the 2017 election, the Conservative revival in Scotland compensated for its disastrous night in England – and it was powered not by a greater affection for Theresa May north of the border, but by the campaign ran by Davidson.
The prospects of repeating that campaign were already mixed – the last election took place just months after Nicola Sturgeon made a big setpiece announcement that she would seek another referendum, and it meant that tactical voting to stop the SNP was a major theme of the contest. But it adds to the difficulty of recreating that dynamic. Davidson had the benefit of the Scottish independence referendum to establish herself as a national figure in Scotland – which made it easier for her to run as a quasi-separate candidate. There is no politician in the Scottish Conservative Party with equivalent standing.
It means that the party will live or die on the popularity of Boris Johnson and his Brexit strategy – which bodes ill for them in Scotland, and further increases the number of gains they will need to make in England and Wales to compensate.