RUTH Davidson has been named The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year – a prize she says she deserves for reviving the ‘corpse’ of the Tory Party north of the Border.
Ms Davidson succeeded in transforming the party’s electoral fortunes and leading them to their best ever result at Holyrood.
The Scottish Conservative leader was also named Donald Dewar Debater of the Year for her performances in Parliament and on behalf of the Remain side during the EU referendum.
Ms Davidson beat off competition from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Education Secretary John Swinney for the top accolade after leading her party out the electoral wilderness by overtaking Labour to become the main opposition at Holyrood in May, doubling her MSPs from 15 to 31, and winning the Edinburgh Central seat at her first attempt in the process.
The MSP accepted the award with her typical good humour.
She told the audience at the Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh: “What can I say, it’s been an extraordinary year for me personally.
“First, the election result in May. Second, my wonderful girlfriend agreed to be my wife. Third, I came second in a Kim Jong-un lookalike competition.
“Almost five years ago today I was elected leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. I was told I would endeavour to resuscitate a corpse, but I always believed there was a way back for for centre right politics in Scotland. I am so unbelievably proud of the team I lead.”
Since the election, she has also been unafraid to challenge the UK Tory line on controversies such as the treatment of EU migrants and allowing a second independence referendum.
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Also recognised in the awards were SNP minister Fergus Ewing, former Labour leader Johann Lamont, and the campaign against the Named Persons legislation.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Campbell received the lifetime achievement award. The retired MP, who received a standing ovation from an audience which included figures from across the political spectrum, thanked his wife Lady Elspeth Campbell for “tolerating me and my politics for 46 years.
He told the audience: “There was a time when the hair was thicker and and waist was thinner.
“I receive this wonderful award really as a first installment, and I’ll tell you why. Jeremy Thorpe famously described the House of Lords as proof that there’s life after death. Well, there’s plenty of life left in this old dog, I can tell you.”
Presenting the prize, Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said ‘Ming’ as he is affectionately known that he was “respected across the world in politics.”
It was a good night for the Conservatives with two others recognised for their contribution to Scottish political life at the ceremony.
Now in their 18th year, the awards are supported by Virgin Trains, RBS, ScottishPower Renewables, SELECT, Thompsons Solicitors, the Improvement Service and Aiir Networks, an NVT Group company.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who came out as gay in January, was named best Scot at Westminster for his role steering the Scotland Bill through the Commons and helping to put together its accompanying fiscal framework.
He beat the Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray and the SNP’s Alison Thewliss in the award, which was supported by Virgin Trains.
The popular former Tory MSP Mary Scanlon won the Best Committee MSP, sponsored by SELECT, for her fearless pursuit of the truth and defence of the public pound on Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee, where the Scottish Police Authority and overspending Coatbridge College bosses were among those to experience the “Scanlon treatment”.
The tally of four awards was the highest ever received in a single year by the Conservatives.
Ms Davidson also joined Mr Swinney and Ms Sturgeon in that select band of politicians who have won both the main award and the Debater of the Year category on the same night.
The latter award was sponsored by Aiir Networks, an NVT Group company.
With one third of MSPs new to Holyrood this year, the largest field was in the One to Watch category, sponsored by ScottishPower Renewables, with the judges impressed by the breadth and depth of talent being attracted to the Parliament as its powers increase.
The winner was the LibDem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton, who gained the Edinburgh Western seat from the SNP and is already tipped as his party’s next leader. The Community MSP of the Year Award went to Labour’s Jackie Baillie, who defied the SNP tsunami by holding on to her Dumbarton seat after doggedly defending local jobs at Faslane, despite her party’s opposition to Trident, and fighting cuts at the Vale of Leven hospital.
Graeme Smith, Acting Editor-in-Chief of The Herald and Times Group, said 2016 had been an extraordinary political year, with an unprecedented third SNP term at Holyrood, the Brexit vote, and the loss of one prime minister and installation of another amid high political intrigue.
He also paid tribute to the former Herald columnist Ian Bell and his friend and fellow writer William McIlvanney, who died within a week of each other last December.
He said: “The last year has truly been a seismic one for both Scottish and UK politics, with the Tories claiming second place at Holyrood and then the vote for Brexit.
“The choice of Ruth Davidson as The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year 2016 may be controversial to some but hers was the outstanding performance of the year.
“In managing to restore the fortunes of a party regarded for so long in Scotland as toxic, she achieved something several of her predecessors had failed to do.
“And in addition, she also achieved a profile on the UK political stage and showed a determination not to be cowed by Tory big beasts.”
“Congratulations to her and to all the winners tonight who have ably demonstrated the strength and depth of Scotland’s political talent.” The Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing won the Politics in Business Award, sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland, for his work helping to save the former Tata Steelworks.
When Tata mothballed the Dalzell plant in Motherwell and Clydebridge in Cambuslang it had looked like the end of steelmaking in Scotland and with it the loss of 225 jobs.
However Mr Ewing, who was Business Secretary, and the Scottish Steel task force helped broker a deal that saw the Scottish Government buy the plants in Dalzell and Clydebridge then immediately resell them to new owners Liberty.
Dalzell was re-opened last month and Liberty hopes to restart Clydebridge in the near future.
Also enjoying a fresh lease of life was fFormer Labour leader Johann Lamont was named E-Politician of the Year. for redefining herself as a pithy and engaging Twitter commentator.
The Public Campaign of the Year Award went to No to Named Persons (NO2NP), which forced the Scottish Government to rewrite its “state guardian” plan by taking their fight to the UK Supreme Court, which agreed it would have broken the law on data sharing.
Also nominated were Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), for its work tackling homophobic bullying, and the Sands Lothian scheme for helping exposing the baby ashes scandal.
Renfrewshire Council’s Labour leader, Mark Macmillan, was named Scottish Local Politician of the Year for his efforts to secure a rail link to Glasgow Airport and for promoting Paisley’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021.
Outgoing South Lanarkshire leader Eddie McAvoy and Edinburgh’s Andrew Burns were also nominated for the award, which was sponsored by the It was sponsored by Improvement Service.