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RUTH-DAVIDSON

Ruth Davidson is open to SCO questions

In the last interview of the SCO series, Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson tackles the SCO questions to Scottish party leaders ahead of the general election in a Q&A

Q: While this is an issue on conscience, can you clarify where you stand on abortion (legislation, time limits ect) and whether you think the regulation of abortion should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament or not? Do your believe politicians/other professionals eg the Glasgow midwives should have a conscience clause on issues such as abortion?

A: I’ve got no strong views on whether abortion should be devolved or not, but reviewers need to take in the issues and look at reviewing the time limit. When it comes to votes like this, politicians should have a conscious vote on the issue.

Q: Where do you stand on assisted suicide and why?

A: I have spent a lot of time thinking about this issue and I’ve spoken to ministers and people in my church to discuss the ethical implications of assisted suicide. I’ve also discussed it with my sister who is a doctor because I want to find out about the impact that a change in the law could have on medical staff and how it would make things more difficult. It is a very fraught issue and it’s one I want to spend more time considering and thinking over.

Q: Some SCO readers view Trident as a life issue. Where do you stand on the UK’s nuclear arsenal?

A: I believe in multilateral disarmament. As a result that we should keep our nuclear arsenal and renew the Trident submarines in which they are housed. Britain has taken a lead before in bringing down stocks of nuclear weapons around the world. We need to ensure that we continue to do so when it comes to proliferation discussions.

Q: You were instrumental in proposing civil partnership legislation in the Scottish Parliament. While this matter, and to a great extent same-sex marriage, were resolved at UK level, what do you think of the process, of Catholic and wider opposition to it and the result?

A: I thought the way the new law was introduced was a credit to our democracy. While views were held strongly on both sides of the argument, there was an understanding of the depth and sincerity of feeling people had. I disagreed with the Catholic Church on this issue but I never doubted that the Church was making its point out of respect for the common good. While the debate sometimes was rough, we showed that Britain is not like the US —we have not fallen into their culture wars over issues like same-sex marriage.

Q: What is you view on state-funded faith education such as Catholic schools in Scotland?

A: I wholeheartedly support Catholic education. Indeed, I only wish that more faith groups, charities and other organisations were able to play a similar role in education, and were able to set up state schools themselves. Like all successful schools, many Catholic schools work because they have a distinct ethos. I would like to see this extended so that we have a much more vibrant education sector.

Q: What do you think of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012? Do you think legislating religious bigotry in Scotland in sporting context was the correct approach? What would you do differently to tackle sectarianism?

A: I and my fellow Scottish Conservatives opposed this act because we believed there were already sufficient laws in place to deal with this type of offending. The SNP claimed those who opposed it were somehow approving of bigotry— which was an offensive position to take. The correct approach is a proper enforcement of the current laws. Sectarianism is a stain on a part of Scottish society—the best approach is patient, persistent education. It’s not a quick fix, but this act has shown that quick fixes can end up being counter-productive.

Q: As Scottish Conservative Party leader a) What are your top concerns? and b) Have there been conflicts of interest in your roles?

A: My top concern is education. It’s the best route out of poverty, the best chance you have to make something of yourself, and the best investment we make as a society in our future wellbeing and prosperity. We’ve campaigned hard over the last few years to improve Scotland’s education system, with signs that the SNP is beginning to listen. I want schools to have far more freedom to do as they wish, with more power in the hands of parents. I’d like to use this election campaign to drive that message home. I don’t know of any conflicts of interest I have.

Q: Where do you stand personally and professional in the subject of Scottish independence?

A: It won’t come as a huge surprise to know that I’m opposed. I like being both Scottish and British. And if you took one of those things away from me, I’d really feel like I’d lost a part of what makes me who I am. So the professional is personal with this. It’s as personal a thing to me as you get in politics. I also think Scotland makes a huge contribution to a United Kingdom, that we helped build, and receive huge benefits too. Both Scotland and the rest of the UK would be diminished if Scotland left.

Q: What do you think of the working relationship between religion and politics, in particular the extent of religious organisations access to the Scottish Parliament, and their lobbying?

A: Religious groups are very active in their lobbying and it’s almost always a positive influence. Politicians can get sucked into the daily news cycle. What religious groups do is remind you that there are bigger and more profound issues to consider. The discussions I have held with Archbishop Tartaglia and the leaders of other faiths have always helped me in my own decision making.

Q: Do you think your biggest critics come from within or outside faith communities?

A: Outside. Whatever our disagreements, faith groups are usually constructive in their criticism. That isn’t always the case with my critics in other walks of life!

Q: How difficult is it to be a Christian politician when it comes to engaging in wider increasingly secular society and with religious groups?

A: I think it is getting increasingly difficult. I am a Christian and I have always been upfront in a saying so. However, I share the concerns of the Catholic Church that religion is being side-lined to the private sphere to some extent, and having its public role diminished. I don’t believe that’s healthy; Judeo-Christian values made our country what it is and enshrined many of the freedoms we enjoy. We ignore those values at our peril.

Q: Do you view tackling climate change/any other topics as an issue of concern shared by politician and religious communities, for example the work of SCIAF and recent comment by Pope Francis?

A: SCIAF is an institution which Scotland can be proud of, especially as it marks its 50th anniversary this year. It has helped keep international development high up the agenda in Scotland. We should never forget that we are a rich country in a world of poverty, which is why I am also so proud that the current UK government has increased spending on international development, despite cuts falling elsewhere. As to Pope Francis, he has been a breath of fresh air. Like John XXIII, he has flung open the doors of the Church, and it is all the better for it.

Q: There have been many reports of political parties fighting to retain/regain/win traditional heartland support in Scotland, for example the loyalty of the Catholic community. Does the changing political landscape help your party?

A: I don’t know. I have an old-fashioned view that politicians should set out what they believe in, and how they plan to change things for the better, and that voters should then decide which party best meets their aspirations. Like everyone else, I’m sure Catholics will reach individual decisions. It’s up to me to show that as many people as possible take a look at the Scottish Conservatives and give us their vote.

Q: What is your vision for Scotland?

A: My vision for Scotland is of a strong nation, secure as part of the United Kingdom, which becomes the most dynamic and well educated place to live in Europe. There’s nothing stopping us from achieving that goal right now. We have all the tools at our disposal. The frustration is that we don’t spend enough time working out how to do it, and spend too much time going down constitutional blind alleys.

Q: How has your upbringing and family roots shaped who you are today?

A: My parents have been the biggest factor that has shaped my character. My father was always working hard, even when he had hard knocks—for example, when he was made redundant—it was always his role to provide for our family. Through him I learnt that there is no substitute for hard work, no shortcuts. My mother raised my sister and me to believe in ourselves, she said: “Nobody is better than you and you are better than nobody.” You should treat everyone with respect; treat them the way you’d like to be treated yourself. As a family we always found strength in our faith and have always believed that love, care and thoughtfulness will take you a very long way.

Q: What have been the biggest political changes in Scotland/the UK since you became an MSP?

A: The political awakening around the referendum has been enormous. To have an 85 per cent turnout is something unseen in our history of voting. The most exciting part was seeing how our young people got involved in the campaign. They were so smart, so articulate, so questioning and this bodes well for the future, we’re in very safe hands.

Q: Where do you stand on assisted suicide and why?

A: I have spent a lot of time thinking about this issue and I’ve spoken to ministers and people in my church to discuss the ethical implications of assisted suicide. I’ve also discussed it with my sister who is a doctor because I want to find out about the impact that a change in the law could have on medical staff and how it would make things more difficult. It is a very fraught issue and it’s one I want to spend more time considering and thinking over.

Q: Some SCO readers view Trident as a life issue. Where do you stand on the UK’s nuclear arsenal?

A: I believe in multilateral disarmament. As a result that we should keep our nuclear arsenal and renew the Trident submarines in which they are housed. Britain has taken a lead before in bringing down stocks of nuclear weapons around the world. We need to ensure that we continue to do so when it comes to proliferation discussions.

Q: You were instrumental in proposing civil partnership legislation in the Scottish Parliament. While this matter, and to a great extent same-sex marriage, were resolved at UK level, what do you think of the process, of Catholic and wider opposition to it and the result?

A: I thought the way the new law was introduced was a credit to our democracy. While views were held strongly on both sides of the argument, there was an understanding of the depth and sincerity of feeling people had. I disagreed with the Catholic Church on this issue but I never doubted that the Church was making its point out of respect for the common good. While the debate sometimes was rough, we showed that Britain is not like the US —we have not fallen into their culture wars over issues like same-sex marriage.

Q: What is you view on state-funded faith education such as Catholic schools in Scotland?

A: I wholeheartedly support Catholic education. Indeed, I only wish that more faith groups, charities and other organisations were able to play a similar role in education, and were able to set up state schools themselves. Like all successful schools, many Catholic schools work because they have a distinct ethos. I would like to see this extended so that we have a much more vibrant education sector.

Q: What do you think of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012? Do you think legislating religious bigotry in Scotland in sporting context was the correct approach? What would you do differently to tackle sectarianism?

A: I and my fellow Scottish Conservatives opposed this act because we believed there were already sufficient laws in place to deal with this type of offending. The SNP claimed those who opposed it were somehow approving of bigotry— which was an offensive position to take. The correct approach is a proper enforcement of the current laws. Sectarianism is a stain on a part of Scottish society—the best approach is patient, persistent education. It’s not a quick fix, but this act has shown that quick fixes can end up being counter-productive.

Q: As Scottish Conservative Party leader a) What are your top concerns? and b) Have there been conflicts of interest in your roles?

A: My top concern is education. It’s the best route out of poverty, the best chance you have to make something of yourself, and the best investment we make as a society in our future wellbeing and prosperity. We’ve campaigned hard over the last few years to improve Scotland’s education system, with signs that the SNP is beginning to listen. I want schools to have far more freedom to do as they wish, with more power in the hands of parents. I’d like to use this election campaign to drive that message home. I don’t know of any conflicts of interest I have.

Q: Where do you stand personally and professional in the subject of Scottish independence?

A: It won’t come as a huge surprise to know that I’m opposed. I like being both Scottish and British. And if you took one of those things away from me, I’d really feel like I’d lost a part of what makes me who I am. So the professional is personal with this. It’s as personal a thing to me as you get in politics. I also think Scotland makes a huge contribution to a United Kingdom, that we helped build, and receive huge benefits too. Both Scotland and the rest of the UK would be diminished if Scotland left.

Q: What do you think of the working relationship between religion and politics, in particular the extent of religious organisations access to the Scottish Parliament, and their lobbying?

A: Religious groups are very active in their lobbying and it’s almost always a positive influence. Politicians can get sucked into the daily news cycle. What religious groups do is remind you that there are bigger and more profound issues to consider. The discussions I have held with Archbishop Tartaglia and the leaders of other faiths have always helped me in my own decision making.

Q: Do you think your biggest critics come from within or outside faith communities?

A: Outside. Whatever our disagreements, faith groups are usually constructive in their criticism. That isn’t always the case with my critics in other walks of life!

Q: How difficult is it to be a Christian politician when it comes to engaging in wider increasingly secular society and with religious groups?

A: I think it is getting increasingly difficult. I am a Christian and I have always been upfront in a saying so. However, I share the concerns of the Catholic Church that religion is being side-lined to the private sphere to some extent, and having its public role diminished. I don’t believe that’s healthy; Judeo-Christian values made our country what it is and enshrined many of the freedoms we enjoy. We ignore those values at our peril.

Q: Do you view tackling climate change/any other topics as an issue of concern shared by politician and religious communities, for example the work of SCIAF and recent comment by Pope Francis?

A: SCIAF is an institution which Scotland can be proud of, especially as it marks its 50th anniversary this year. It has helped keep international development high up the agenda in Scotland. We should never forget that we are a rich country in a world of poverty, which is why I am also so proud that the current UK government has increased spending on international development, despite cuts falling elsewhere. As to Pope Francis, he has been a breath of fresh air. Like John XXIII, he has flung open the doors of the Church, and it is all the better for it.

Q: There have been many reports of political parties fighting to retain/regain/win traditional heartland support in Scotland, for example the loyalty of the Catholic community. Does the changing political landscape help your party?

A: I don’t know. I have an old-fashioned view that politicians should set out what they believe in, and how they plan to change things for the better, and that voters should then decide which party best meets their aspirations. Like everyone else, I’m sure Catholics will reach individual decisions. It’s up to me to show that as many people as possible take a look at the Scottish Conservatives and give us their vote.

Q: What is your vision for Scotland?

A: My vision for Scotland is of a strong nation, secure as part of the United Kingdom, which becomes the most dynamic and well educated place to live in Europe. There’s nothing stopping us from achieving that goal right now. We have all the tools at our disposal. The frustration is that we don’t spend enough time working out how to do it, and spend too much time going down constitutional blind alleys.

Q: How has your upbringing and family roots shaped who you are today?

A: My parents have been the biggest factor that has shaped my character. My father was always working hard, even when he had hard knocks—for example, when he was made redundant—it was always his role to provide for our family. Through him I learnt that there is no substitute for hard work, no shortcuts. My mother raised my sister and me to believe in ourselves, she said: “Nobody is better than you and you are better than nobody.” You should treat everyone with respect; treat them the way you’d like to be treated yourself. As a family we always found strength in our faith and have always believed that love, care and thoughtfulness will take you a very long way.

Q: What have been the biggest political changes in Scotland/the UK since you became an MSP?

A: The political awakening around the referendum has been enormous. To have an 85 per cent turnout is something unseen in our history of voting. The most exciting part was seeing how our young people got involved in the campaign. They were so smart, so articulate, so questioning and this bodes well for the future, we’re in very safe hands.

 

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