27 Mar 2015
By Ruth Davidson (The Courier – 27 March 2015)
I KNOW it’s unfashionable to say it, but I love general election time.
As a fully paid up political geek, there’s the fascination of watching the the ebb and flow of the campaign trail.
And, as a politician, it’s refreshing to get out of the political bubble at Holyrood and speak to people.
That’s particularly so right now. Because it’s clear that there is a remarkable degree of political engagement across Scotland right now.
A poll this week found that 62% of Scots regarded themselves as interested in politics, compared to just 49% South of the Border.
The reason is obvious: last year’s independence referendum involved just about everybody in the country and has shaken up the old political order.
The old assumptions have been shattered. Politics is interesting again.
We all know what the polls are currently suggesting. It looks like people are deserting Labour and the LibDems in their droves.
And the SNP is holding onto much of the support it won in the 2011 Holyrood election when it won a majority at the Scottish Parliament.
If those polls are right, the SNP could end up with many more seats than it gained in the last general election.
Certainly, that’s what Alex Salmond thinks – on his book tour, I see he has already put those seats in his back pocket and is now already planning how ‘he’ intends to run Westminster.
To hear him speak, it sounds very much like Alex is taking people for granted. The SNP is in danger of getting ahead of itself.
So before the campaign begins, it’s not a bad idea to ask a simple question: what are we actually being asked to do here?
At its simplest, we’re electing an MP to serve in the House of Commons. And we’re electing a new government of the United Kingdom.
That government will then be faced with some massive decisions: about bringing down the yawning budget deficit this country still runs, reducing the debts that we’re passing onto our children and grandchildren, and – at the same time – ensuring we grow the economy to help fund our NHS and good quality public services.
It’s also a plain fact is that one of two people will be in charge of those decisions after the election: it will either be David Cameron or Ed Miliband.
I know which one the SNP is supporting: Mr Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have already said they will put Mr Miliband in power, and try and extract concessions from him to suit their own Nationalist vision.
So it’s Conservatives on one side, and the SNP and Labour on the other.
In my view, if you have a mortgage, if you have credit cards, or if you’re hoping to benefit from a secure economic recovery, a weak and chaotic SNP-Labour pact is not one to back.
It would lead to insecurity, not just for your job and the economy, but also for the future of the country at large.
The SNP is still pushing for independence, and any deal they do in this election will be done with the express purpose of pushing that agenda along.
I know many people still support that independence option and while I disagree with it, I respect it.
But I back Scotland in the UK. And if you want security – for the economy and for Britain – the only option is the Scottish Conservatives.
I know times haven’t always been easy under this Coalition Government. But we’ve weathered the storm and – unlike some other countries who are still struggling – we’re coming through the other side.
For all those people who are so engaged with politics, or fed up with the Westminster establishment, I realise this ‘steady-as-she-goes’ plan isn’t perhaps the flashiest of offers out there.
But it is the choice we face. Undoing all of the hard work over the past five years or going that final few yards to get us out of the red and into the black for good.
This election isn’t about having a free kick at the old guard. It’s about deciding who runs one of the greatest nations on earth.
At the end of the day, that’s what we’re being asked to decide this May.
NOT a single vote has been cast for the General Election yet, but I see Alex Salmond is already sampling a taste of the Westminster high-life.
The ex-First Minister – who is quitting the Scottish Parliament so he can go back to London – was interviewed by the New Statesman magazine last week at a posh London hotel.
The journalist who met him for lunch began his piece: “As we settle down at a table, Salmond orders a bottle of pink champagne.”
Now I like a funny-coloured drink as much as the next girl – but not for lunch, not on someone else’s bill and certainly not in the Holyrood canteen where I eat. Such extravagance probably explains why Mr Salmond is so keen to get back to London’s fine dining eateries.
While I’m not averse to some fizz at a wedding or special occasion, I’m more of a whisky lover myself – nothing beats a glass of Highland Park.
Which is why I was toasting George Osborne last week when he announced a historic cut in the rate of duty on whisky.
This will mean that our distillers across Scotland get a much-needed boost as they export their wares across the UK and beyond. It might not take much off the price of a nip, but it is invaluable to distillers and makes a huge difference in protecting Scottish jobs.
I took a bottle of Scottish Parliament Speyside Malt down to London earlier this week and gave it to George as a thank-you.
We didn’t get round to a glass of pink champers – we’ll leave that to London jet-setters like Mr Salmond.
I’ve argued for years that the video games sector should be able to compete more fairly on the world stage.
In fact, I made a whole documentary on the subject as a journalist, before I became an MSP.
We really are renowned for our computer games in Scotland, particularly in the Dundee area.
It’s great to hear that the industry is flourishing with new studios, growing numbers of employees, greater investment and growing revenues.
And it’s this upward industry which supports hundreds of talented people including artists, engineers, graphic designers, mathematicians, physicists and musicians.
That’s why I was delighted last week to see the Chancellor announce £4 million to a new Video Games Prototype Fund, over the next four years.
The cash will aid access to finance and business support – targeting both present and future games development talent.
It will also give enthusiastic start-up firms a step-up and encourage them to develop new games ideas.
With around 250 new jobs to be created, it’s sure to be a massive boost to the Scottish economy.
The announcement will see the development of a new fund open to applications to take forward essential skills and talent programmes running to 2019.
This long-term additional measure will help safeguard our gaming industry.
The video games market offers high growth opportunity within the UK – it already contributes more than £99 million.
This can only be a good thing, showcasing Scotland’s talent with the UK and abroad.
It goes without saying that the Chancellor’s announcement will certainly help fuel further success.