Christmas Getting to Know You - Ruth Davidson
Holyrood sits down with the leader of the Scottish Conservatives to learn about the true meaning of Christmas
Ruth Davidson - image credit: Lorna Miller
What’s your earliest Christmas memory?
We moved to Fife when I was five and I remember one Christmas in Selkirk, before we moved. I think that’s probably it – I remember it was snowy outside and that we opened our presents then we went out in our wellies and played in the snow.
How old were you?
I must have been four, though I would still go out and play in the snow now. That’s fine.
Yes, that’s fine. What’s the worst thing that has ever happened at Christmas?
I had one Christmas when I wasn’t able to walk. I had been run over by a truck in August and I still wasn’t able to walk by December, so that was probably the worst one.
That is a bad Christmas, what did you do? Could you move at all?
I think I was probably in physio – I was only five – and I probably had a zimmer frame at the time, so I was able to sort of heave myself along. My dad would have carried me down the stairs or something so I was able to open my Christmas presents, because they were always kept in the living room.
At least that kept you away from the presents…
Yes, there was no sneaking down the stairs to try and catch Santa coming down the chimney, because he would have heard me dragging my carcass along.
That’s quite a dark Christmas story, Ruth. Can you remember how you found out Santa wasn’t real?
I absolutely and categorically challenge the premise of your question. For all your readers out there, I say, ‘Santa is real and you should continue to believe in him’ because he is one of the great joys of childhood which you should never lose.
Is that the official Conservative Party line? Or just your own?
I would like to think I speak for the whole party in this regard. It is now.
So how do you do Christmas? What’s the routine?
We do Christmas year about. My partner is Irish, so we either go to my parents’ house in Scotland, which we did last year, or we go to her brother’s in Ireland. This year is an Irish Christmas so I’ll be loading up the car and the dog and everything else then taking the ferry over to Ireland, which will be nice.
We stay with her brother and sister-in-law, and they have three kids, so the kids get up dead early and do all the Christmas presents, then we open ours, then there’s a meal for the seven of us. Then the big day in Ireland is on Boxing Day, which they call St Stephen’s Day, and that’s when everyone comes to the house. There might be 18 or 20 people around the table and everyone brings their leftovers from Christmas dinner the day before, so you’ll have a couple of half turkeys and a beef joint and all that stuff. It’s really sociable.
And what about the routine for a Scottish Christmas?
We go to my parents’ house in Fife. We always go to the watchnight service in my local church, come back, put on a music channel and watch a couple of Christmas music videos, then have a drink and some Cadbury’s Roses before bed. Then we get up in the morning, open our presents, throw on some clothes, go to church again on Christmas Day, then come back, cook Christmas dinner and watch the Queen’s speech.
What do you dislike most about Christmas?
You know what I hate more than anything else? Shops that have their Christmas decorations up before it’s even Halloween. It drives me absolutely insane. I have a disproportionate rage about it. I really, really, really hate it.
But what can you do? Would you tear them down? Is that something you might consider?
I wouldn’t advocate anything relating to damage to property… but I would be having a strong word with people and I am also going to through your publication – don’t do it!
So who does the cooking? Do you help with Christmas dinner?
When it’s a Scottish Christmas, up until quite recently my mum did most of it but I kind of took it over last year. Me and Jen [Davidson’s partner] pretty much did it last year and my mum helped out.
But in Ireland, everyone has their roles, and they were already pre-existing before I got together with Jen, so I’ve had to slot into a role. So I have quite a junior role, which largely involves peeling potatoes, but I am hoping that over time I will be able to climb the ladder.
You need to prove yourself.
Yeah, once I’ve proved myself, I’ll be able to climb the ladder of Christmas dinner preparation. You have to aim for the top – get that turkey crown ready.
Have you ever had any disasters doing it?
Well, there have been times we have stopped off at the pub on the way back from the church and then forgotten we were supposed to put the turkey in the oven several hours before. That has happened more than once, but it’s not really a disaster, just a slightly late dinner.
When do you put up your Christmas tree?
Usually in the second week of December, because I’m quite strong on having a real tree – especially if we go over to Ireland for four or five days, I don’t like to come back and have needles everywhere.
And how would you describe your approach to decoration?
I’m mad for fairy lights, and in my old flat, I had them around my bookcase all year round. Then fairy lights on the tree, on the window, around the door – I love a fairy light. The tree is gold tinsel, red and gold baubles, some lametta, and hunners of fairy lights. But you know, I genuinely like – and this is going to sound weird, like I’m Tiny Tim or something – but at Christmas, because we have a dog and we walk him round the streets – I genuinely like to have a wee coorie in to see what people’s trees look like at Christmas.
You could go carol singing and then you might gain access to the houses.
I could, but I’m not a very good singer – though I do know all the words.
I’m not sure how people would react to seeing the leader of the Scottish Tories arriving to sing carols for them.
Well, we had kids round at Halloween for a wee party. We had decorations up and some lanterns at the door, and we did actually have some people come guising and I think they were probably a bit surprised to find the leader of the Scottish Conservatives open the door in a full skeleton outfit. But they got Haribo, and a little bit of money, and some satsumas, so I’d say job done.
It wouldn’t get much scarier.
[Nervously] Well, at least you’ll have Hogmanay.
Yeah, when I was younger I was mad for Hogmanay – loved it – but now I’m getting a bit long in the tooth I’m not for the street party and all that – vomiting on my shoes…
That’s not actually a formal requirement
And yet it still seems to happen. But this year we’ll have a wee Hogmanay party, just five or six people round the house and midnight curry and a bit of music.
Annie Wells, Monica Lennon, Alex Cole-Hamilton, Clare Haughey and Jenny Gilruth discuss mental health policy, alongside their own experiences
Environmental groups express “huge disappointing” in Scottish Government climate change plans
Report will present economic arguments that Scotland can match other successful small countries
Jeremy Corbyn visits Belfast to make case for customs union as Theresa May asks EU for transition period to be extended