Northern Ireland news

Ruth Davidson says Doug Beattie 'quite probably' man who will save union

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Picture by Jane Barlow/PA Wire

FORMER Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has again praised Doug Beattie, saying the UUP leader is “quite probably” the man who will save the union.

Baroness Davidson of Lundin said the Upper Bann MLA's "earthiness" and "wicked sense of humour" endeared him to voters, while he also passes the “pub test”.

The former MSP said the north was likely to have its first ever nationalist first minister after the next election, which would provide Sinn Féin with a "platform to campaign relentlessly to end the UK".

She claims opinion polls show that Mr Beattie has "struck a chord" with the electorate.

"Beattie’s unionism is expansive, seeking to embrace groups that have often felt excluded," she wrote on the Unherd website.

Baroness Davidson said the UUP leader’s "impeccable unionist credentials — military service for the crown, his uncle’s death at the hands of the IRA, the fact that he grew up on Union Street in Portadown", gave him "much greater licence to talk freely and generously about Irish identity".

"He wants little short of a complete transformation of Northern Irish politics — reshaping the devolution architecture to allow for what he calls 'working power-sharing' and 'power-sharing opposition' — coalitions that bring unionists and nationalists together in order to get things done, rather than (as he sees it) forcing them together in a way that means mutual vetoes often result in stasis," she said.

She said she accepts that a Yes vote for Scottish independence would accelerate Irish unity, saying she acknowledges "that Scottish cessation, had it occurred, may well have helped tip majority opinion in Northern Ireland towards Irish reunification".

Earlier this year, the ex-Scottish Conservatives leader described Mr Beattie as "single most interesting person in politics right now".

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