Davidson backs ‘whoever will advance Scotland’s interests’ as PM’s successor

Ruth Davidson has said she will back whoever will champion Scotland as the next Conservative leader when Theresa May steps down.

With the Prime Minister having pledged to step aside when her Brexit deal is passed by Parliament, the Scottish Conservative leader – who has just returned to work after being on maternity leave – said she would consider who would “advance Scotland’s interests within the United Kingdom”.

Ms Davidson also stressed the importance of the next Tory leader being able to “bring the UK back together after Brexit because that’s been as divisive for the whole UK as independence has been here in Scotland”.

She spoke out as reports claimed she has barred leading Brexiteer and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson from speaking at the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen.

He is instead expected to make a campaigning visit to the city next week.

Speaking as the conference got under way, Ms Davidson said there was no vacancy at present with Mrs May having only so far “given a broad timetable for the point at which she will leave”.

But she told the Northsound 1 radio station: “When that happens, when we see the candidates that are put forward, the things that I will look for as leader of the Scottish Conservatives are I want someone who is going to strengthen and have a commitment to the United Kingdom, to advance Scotland’s interests within the United Kingdom and also crucially who wants to bring the UK back together after Brexit because that’s been as divisive for the whole UK as independence has been here in Scotland.

“That’s what I want to see and I’ll assess the candidates when they put their names forward.”

Pressed on whether that would exclude Mr Johnson, she recalled how in the last leadership contest he “didn’t get across the start line” and stand for the post.

“So we’ll see what the field is and then I will make my decision,” she said.

We’re all set for the start of our 2019 conference – just follow #SCC19 to keep up to date with what’s going on pic.twitter.com/8rGTq9HFi5

— ScotConservatives (@ScotTories) May 3, 2019

She also said she was hopeful the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal could still find support from MPs, saying there had been a “marked change in the mood music” from talks in London between her party and Labour.

The Scottish Tory leader said she would give the PM “absolutely 10 out of 10 for effort and application and tenacity” in her handling of the negotiations.

She added: “In terms of trying to get people who have become more and more entrenched to compromise was always going to be a tough ask.

“But what we’re hearing at the moment is these talks that are going on in London, we’ve seen a marked change in the mood music coming out of the room and I’m genuinely hopeful that there is a middle ground we can coalesce around to make sure there is an orderly Brexit.”