RUTH Davidson has been named The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year for the second consecutive year after following up her party’s revival at Holyrood with spectacular advances at both the local and general elections.
Ms Davidson won the top accolade after her party gained a dozen MPs in June to become Scotland’s second largest, just weeks after overtaking Labour in the council polls.
She was presented with her award by Donald Martin, Editor-in-Chief of Newsquest (Scotland), publishers of The Herald, and chairman of the judging panel, and John Mackay, host of TV political programme Scotland Tonight.
Her electoral success at Westminster saw the departure of some of the SNP’s biggest names, contributed to Nicola Sturgeon pausing her plans for a second independence referendum, and kept Theresa May in Downing Street.
Ms Davidson beat off competition from the SNP’s formidable Brexit Minister Michael Russell and the indefatigable Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.
Accepting the prize at Edinburgh’s prestigious Prestonfield Hotel, she said: “I’m very grateful for this award tonight.
“I accept it as the team captain of a side that has outperformed all expectations in the last 18 months.
“I’m incredibly proud of the team that I’ve been building in Holyrood and I’m now building in Westminster, along with local authorities across the country – this award is very much for them.”
In her acceptance speech, she brought the house down with a series of quips. After thanking Theresa May for calling the snap General Election in which the Prime Minister also lost her majority – but gained 11 more Tory MPs north of the Border, she targeted Alex Salmond.
With the former first minister having aired his new TV chat show on Kremlin-backed RT hours earlier, Ms Davidson added: “I wish to say a big thank you to Alex Salmond for helping us along the way. Cheers Alex – or as you would now say, Nazdarovya.”
Ms Davidson remains the only Conservative to be named Politician of the Year since the awards were established in 1999, and is only the fourth person to win more than once.
But she praised fellow nominees, Scotland’s Brexit Secretary Michael Russell saying he had carried himself with ‘typical swagger and intelligence – and I know how much our MSPs have been enjoying crossing swords with him in this last year.”
Of Scots Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who was also in the running for the award, she urged him to not do so much of the outdoor pursuit, adding he was ‘becoming something of a national treasure. Albeit, one that wears very tight shorts when he goes fell running.”
She added: “They are both politicians of real substance and it’s an honour to be named among them this evening.
“Let me congratulate them – and all the winners of this evening’s awards, especially those campaigners who are recognised this evening for their tireless work bringing issues of such importance to the Scottish Parliament.”
Public Campaigner of the Year was Amanda Kopel whose Frank’s Law campaign has led to an extension of care for dementia sufferers such as her late husband.
Amanda Kopel issued a heartfelt reminder that Frank’s Law doesn’t come into action until 2019.
Accepting her award from Graham Morrison, managing director of Newsquest (Scotland) and Mr Mackay, she said: “I’m not ashamed to stand here tonight and ask and beg and plead to the powers that be to please help these people.
“I’m not going to stand and say to these people who are desperately in need of Frank’s Law, ‘Please hang on another 18 months.’ Because a lot of these people are not going to be here.”
Donald Martin, Editor-in-Chief of Newsquest Scotland and chairman of the judging panel, said: “In a year of political upheaval and a constant stream of headline grabbing stories, The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year awards was a fantastic opportunity to step back and salute those making an impact in the political world for all the right reasons. We are delighted and proud to once again recognise the contributions of our winners and all those shortlisted.”
Now in their 19th year, the awards are supported by Virgin Trains, Aiir Networks an NVT Group company, ScottishPower Renewables, Royal Bank of Scotland, the Improvement Service and SELECT.
Also recognised in the awards were former Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, Green MSP Andy Wightman, Conservative Murdo Fraser and the SNP’s Alex Neil.
The SNP’s Alison Thewliss was named Best Scot at Westminster for harrying the government over its welfare reforms, and in particular its two-child cap on child tax credit.
The Glasgow Central MP was the first to highlight the intrusive exemption for women who had a third child through rape, making the so-called “rape clause” a national issue.
The first female winner, she beat Scottish Secretary David Mundell and her SNP colleague Stephen Gethins in the category, which was supported by Virgin Trains.
The rape clause also led to Ms Dugdale being named the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year for one of the best speeches at Holyrood in recent memory.
After making a furious denunciation of the policy, she silenced the chamber by reading a letter from a woman who had a child following a rape and was horrified at the change.
She beat her Labour colleague Neil Findlay and Scottish Tory deputy Jackson Carlaw in the category backed by Aiir Networks an NVT Group company.
The judges felt the One to Watch category, supported by ScottishPower Renewables, was one of the hardest to decide given the high standard of many of the new intake at Holyrood.
The winner was Labour’s Monica Lennon, who has spearheaded a campaign to end period poverty by making sanitary products free in Scotland, an idea picked up by SNP ministers.
She has also proven herself an effective debater and questioner of the government, drawing on moving personal testimony to illustrate the problems faced by her constituents.
Also recognised in the category were the SNP’s Kate Forbes and Ben Macpherson and Tory Miles Briggs.
SNP veteran Alex Neil was named Committee MSP of the Year for his work as one of the chief inquisitors on Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee.
The former health secretary was praised for his ruthless scrutiny of the secretive Scottish Police Authority, at one point reminding its chairman: “It’s not the Kremlin you’re running.”
The award was supported by SELECT.
The respected and cerebral Green MSP Andy Wightman was named the Community MSP of the Year for his work highlighting the problem of short-term holiday lets across the Lothians.
The Politics in Business Award supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland was won by Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser, for his response to the botched business rates revaluation.
After May’s local elections there were several first-time contenders for Scottish Local Politician of the Year, supported by the Improvement Service.
The winner was the co-leader of Aberdeen City Council Jenny Laing, who was suspended from Labour after striking a coalition with the Conservatives.
Under her leadership, Aberdeen has pioneered the use of municipal bonds in Scotland, raising £370 million for building and infrastructure works. She beat Susan Aitken, the first SNP leader of Glasgow City Council in a generation, and Edinburgh SNP councillor Lewis Ritchie.
Meanwhile, Tommy Mitchell, Technical Director, Aiir Networks an NVT Group Company, said: “It’s been our pleasure once again to support an event such as this, which showcases the true breadth of talent in Scottish politics.
“Our business is all about connectivity and, with that in mind, it’s great that the public’s engagement in politics remains as high as ever in Scotland. We’d like to congratulate The Herald for another successful awards and, of course, to all of tonight’s worthy winners!”
Colin Mair, chief executive of the Improvement Service, said: “The Improvement Service is delighted to work with The Herald in acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of Scotland’s local political leaders.
“In a changing political landscape and faced with unprecedented challenges our local leaders have demonstrated strong leadership and exceptional focus on local priorities”.
Malcolm Buchanan, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Scottish board, said: “Royal Bank of Scotland is delighted to support The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards and in particular the Politics in Business award.
“With the economic uncertainty and headwinds facing the UK it is vital that politicians listen to, and work with, businesses to manage the risks and build on the opportunities created by changes such as Brexit or technology.
“The Bank is privileged to serve almost two million customers based in communities all over Scotland.
“We are committed to serving our customers well and, through funding, mentoring, specialist advice and access to our networks we are helping businesses large and small to succeed.
“We are determined to help start-ups through our business accelerators and through our support for organisations such as the EDGE fund and the Prince’s Trust.
“The Royal Bank would like to congratulate all of the winners this evening, especially Murdo Fraser MSP, recipient of the Politics in Business award for the valuable contribution he/she has made to business life in Scotland.”
Keith Anderson, chief executive of ScottishPower Renewables, said: “Congratulations to the nominees and winners for 2017. I was delighted to see such a high calibre across all of the categories. The evening always highlights the strong contributions made to Scottish politics.”
Newell McGuiness, Managing Director, SELECT, the largest construction trade association in Scotland said: “We are once again delighted to sponsor the 2017 Award for “Committee MSP of the Year”. We recognise and support the important role parliamentary committee’s play in conducting inquiries, scrutinising legislation and holding the government to account. The winner Alex Neil MSP, met and exceeded what is required of a good committee member. They are inquisitive, they enjoy examining the details of proposed legislation and they support democracy by holding the law makers to account.”
David Horne, Managing Director of Virgin Trains on the east coast route, said: “We were delighted to once again sponsor these important awards which help us reflect on the important contributions to political debate this year. Our warmest congratulations go to Alison Thewliss MP, who faced stiff competition for the Best Scot at Westminster category.”
Please contact Lyndsay Wilson on 0141 302 7407 or Lyndsay.firstname.lastname@example.org for information on attending the 2018 event.