The leaders of both the DUP and UUP have paid tribute to Ruth Davidson after her decision to quit as Scottish Conservative leader.
DUP leader Arlene Foster praised her passion for the Union, while UUP leader Robin Swann described her as “more of a unionist than Scottish Tory” as he highlighted her role in the Scottish independence referendum campaign.
Ms Davidson said leading the Tories in Holyrood, the job which she took on in November 2011, had been the “privilege of my life”.
But as she formally resigned as leader, Ms Davidson – who had campaigned for Remain in the 2016 European referendum – cited the “conflict” she had felt over Brexit.
She also said that while “work has always come first” over the past eight years, the arrival of her son Finn last October meant she was making a “different choice”.
The “biggest change” in her life had been starting a family with her partner Jen Wilson, she added.
Mrs Foster said: “We are two female party leaders and we are two people who believe passionately in the Union. Ruth has been able to capture the mood of the unionist people in Scotland and see great success most notably in 2017 when the DUP also had one of its best ever Westminster election results in Northern Ireland.
“When the speculation was mounting in the last few days about Ruth’s position I sensed it may be more than just politics that had made her mind up. I know how being a mother completely changes our priorities. Without my own mother and my mother-in-law I could never have been able to balance political commitments and a young family.”
Mrs Foster added: “Ruth and I share that understanding of the demands on a political leader but also the impromptu demands of a little child. I called Ruth on Thursday morning and gave her my best wishes. She will not regret spending more time with little Finn and she will undoubtedly continue to be a significant voice in Scotland and defender of the Union.”
Mr Swann, speaking to the News Letter, said: “I think one of the strengths she had in Scotland was that she was seen as more of a unionist than Scottish Tory, so that when it came time to take that battle to the Scottish National Party she was able for it because of her stance on the Union.”
Asked if her departure leaves a ‘void’ at the top of the Scottish Conservative Party, Mr Swann said: “I think that it does. In the leadership election eight or nine years ago there was a full field, but it would be difficult to identify someone now. But I am sure they will find someone who is able to fill those shoes, who will be up for the challenge. But it will be a hard job to replace Ruth and her contribution to unionist politics right across the United Kingdom.”
In her resignation letter, Ms Davidson described the Scottish independence referendum campaign, where voters in 2014 opted to stay part of the UK, as “without doubt, the most important contribution of my working life”.