Last week (Friday 21 September), the Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson came to St Andrews for an event organised by Topping & Company to promote the release of her new book ‘Yes She Can: Why Women own the Future’. Ms Davidson’s book has been described as an ‘equalities manifesto for the modern age’, drawing together a series of insightful interviews with woman successful in a variety of fields to show their experiences and give some advice as to how we can enable more women to succeed in the future. The event cost £20 and comprised of a question and answer session between Ms Davidson and Steve Bargeton of the University Press Office before a series of questions were taken from the floor. It was of little surprise that there were a great number of women in the queue for the event, which took place at Hope Park & Martyr’s Church on Market Street, but there were also a lot of men, many of whom asked questions in the second half of the evening. In a pleasant addition, every guest was offered a free glass of wine on entry, or non-alcoholic options for those not so inclined. The chat on stage between Ms Davidson and Mr Bargeton effectively managed to blend insight with emotion and serious political discussion with a fair number of laughs.
Ms Davidson spoke at length about why she decided to write her book, how she’d faced difficulty in her childhood after, in her words, being ‘flattened by a lorry’ at the age of five, and her route to politics. Whilst she cited her appearances for the Largo Boys Under-14 football team as one of her proudest moments, it was also clear she had thoroughly enjoyed her time as a journalist. After obtaining a degree in English Literature she worked for the Glenrothes Gazette as a reporter before eventually moving to BBC Scotland. It was during that portion of her life that she spent time in Kosovo during the conflict, something that inspired her to get further involved in the Territorial Army, where Mr Bargeton was her commanding officer. She unfortunately broke her back in training at Sandhurst but has since become an Honorary Colonel of her local TA regiment. It was during this discussion she made a good joke about them not making a maternity wear range in camouflage and it’s that charisma that has helped her become a staple in Scottish politics despite only becoming an MSP in 2011. Other topics in the first half of the evening including Theresa May, with Ms Davidson wholeheartedly taking the opportunity to remind people that Ms May met her husband at an Oxford Tory Club disco in the 1970s, something made all the humorous by the Prime Minister’s recent dancing escapades in Africa. Ms Davidson praised the PM’s personal resilience before confirming recent remarks made in a number of national newspaper that she herself has no inclinations towards Westminster, saying ‘I want to be a good wife and mother and be good at my job. I’m ambitious for Scotland’.
Nicola Sturgeon and Brexit were also touched on, with Ms Davidson quite boldly saying that the government in Westminster failed to prepare the public for what Brexit negotiations would actually look like, before saying that she believes it’s in our best interest to secure a deal and that she thinks we will get one. Looking at Ms Davidson it was quite obvious just how pregnant she now is, with her due date in around five weeks, and her impending motherhood and progressiveness as an “I want to be a good wife and mother and be good at my job. I’m ambitious for Scotland” LGBT+ political leader were discussed in both parts. She did say that she was not particularly looking forward to the birth after all the horror stories she’s heard but that she is looking forward to having a family and that this one might not be the only one her and her wife Jen have. The first section ran for roughly half an hour before a range of questions from the floor. The current controversy in the US Supreme Court was touched on, as was eligibility to vote in Referendums, widening access to Higher Education, Unionism and whether she’d ever been pigeonholed as a politician because of her beliefs. Perhaps the best bit though was when she was asked about her book, citing that the most poignant bits to her where the women who’d been through hard times, braved adversity and come out on the other side as she said they were the examples that people could relate to most and learn most from. Proceedings drew to a close just after 8pm and the inevitable scramble for book signings and photo opportunities took place and I was left to reflect on a thoroughly entertaining evening. Ms Davidson’s candidness and approachability is to be commended and I felt the evening raced by, leaving me somewhat disappointed when it was finally time to head home. Head home I did though, with her new book in tow, and it’s a book I am very much excited to read