Cameron not my boss, says Scots Tory leader

 

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The new Tory leader in Scotland has distanced herself from London control by insisting David Cameron is not the party boss north of the border.

Ruth Davidson, 32, who was inspired by the Prime Minister to enter frontline politics, is the first overall leader for Scotland, following a shake-up of the party structure.

Speaking the morning after her election victory, she said: "While David Cameron is my Prime Minister, when he comes to Scotland he's not my boss, we're colleagues."

She highlighted different approaches to policy in the Scottish Parliament, adding: "I'll be making a vision that is right for Scotland, right for the Scottish Conservatives, and I hope very much to work with our Prime Minister.

"But if he needs a quiet tap on the shoulder, then I'm just the girl to do it."

Ms Davidson was elected yesterday after a divisive battle in which one candidate, Murdo Fraser, argued for the party to be scrapped and replaced with a new centre-right movement.

Ms Davidson, an openly gay former Territorial Army member, rejected concerns that a breakaway party might emerge and insisted the party would now pull together.

At a press conference in an Edinburgh restaurant today, she indicated policy plans and announced new appointments.

David Mundell, the only Tory MP in Scotland, has been made interim party chairman to review structure.

John Lamont MSP, who led her election campaign, has been asked to co-lead the campaign for next year's local government elections along with a Tory councillor.

As well as beating Mr Fraser into second place, Ms Davidson saw off challenges from Holyrood colleagues Jackson Carlaw and Margaret Mitchell.

She said: "They are not my opponents, they are my colleagues. This leadership campaign was enriched by their passion, energy and ideas.

"Our party, and broader political debate in Scotland, is better and richer for the campaigns they ran.

"And each of them made valuable contributions to how we take our party and our country forward and I look forward to the considerable contributions I know they will continue to make under my leadership."

Ms Davidson said policies will be developed over the coming weeks, as will frontbench appointments for the rest of the 15-strong Tory group at Holyrood.

She called for a more business-friendly outlook, committed to keeping the NHS free at the point of delivery and said GPs should be given "more autonomy".

On education, she wants to give more freedom to parents who want to choose their children's school.

Justice should be rebalanced on the side of victims and the law should target persistent low-level offenders who "make life miserable for decent people".

She added: "All our policies will be guided by the principle that lies at the heart of Scottish conservatism - individuals run their own lives and government is there to help them when it's needed."

Ms Davidson will face SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond every week at question time in Holyrood.

Mr Salmond is committed to holding a referendum on Scottish independence towards the end of this parliamentary session, possibly in 2014.

Ms Davidson said: "I don't envy the SNP. They are tasked with making the negative case against the United Kingdom, talking down our history, our country and our achievements.

"That's a fitting script for a party locked in the throes of backwardness and reaction."

Describing her leadership style and challenges for the party's future, she said: "We have much work to do. Some might think it looks like an insurmountable challenge with all the odds stacked against us.

"Well it won't be easy but then I'm a Conservative, and Conservatives don't believe in something for nothing. We believe in working hard to achieve your ambitions."

She said the Tories must become the "political wing" for Scotland, offering a "prosperous and progressive" outlook for the country.

Ms Davidson only entered Holyrood at the Scottish election in May, winning a seat on the regional list for Glasgow.

She takes over from Annabel Goldie, who she previously worked for as an aide.

After the election result last night, Mr Fraser conceded his plan to scrap the Conservatives was a "leap too far".

He said: "I think the bold and radical proposal that I had - to create a new centre-right party for Scotland, to replace the Conservatives - was a leap too far for the majority of our members.

"A sizeable minority, 45%, voted for my proposal but it was not enough."

He secured 2,096 first preference votes against Ms Davidson's 2,278. PA

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