Page last updated at 07:28 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 08:28 UK

'Nag' who won her party's respect

Annabel Goldie

Andrew Black
Political reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Scotland's national bird. No, not Annabel Goldie herself but a reference to one of her more famous campaigns.

It is a tough job leading the Scottish Conservatives - the perception from some sections of the public that the party has no future north of the border and bitter memories of the poll tax dispute all serves to undermine you.

However, since taking stewardship of the party during a time of internal strife, Miss Goldie has managed to demonstrate how smaller parties can bring about change at the heart of government.

Miss Goldie - both a formidable personality and much-liked public figure - was born in Glasgow in 1950 and attended Greenock Academy before embarking on a legal career.

But a succession of prominent roles in the Conservative Party led to her arrival at Holyrood in the first parliament and her appointment as Scottish Tory deputy leader.

The matronly Miss Goldie established herself as a skilled debater and, as an example of her dry wit and self-deprecating humour, once challenged Wendy Alexander, a minister at the time, with the phrase "as one spinster to another".

In 2004, the RSPB put her up to argue the case that the golden eagle should be adopted as the national bird of Scotland.

Putting internal troubles behind her, Miss Goldie - a die-hard fan of BBC Scotland soap River City - threw herself into the Holyrood election campaign

Miss Goldie, a keen twitcher, began her pitch by telling a Scottish Parliament committee: "To avoid confusion, it's the golden eagle we want as the national bird, not me."

One of her greatest tests came when she found herself as leader in 2005, in the wake of the so-called "taxigate" affair, during which time Mr McLetchie stepped down from the top job.

Soon after, the then Tory MSP Brian Monteith admitted he had briefed against the former leader and subsequently left his party's Holyrood group, and parliament itself in the election to follow.

Miss Goldie declared the wheels were back on the wagon and she was "the nag hitched up to tow it", while warning that disloyalty and disobedience would not be tolerated.

"I think you may take it matron's handbag will be in hyper-action," she said as her appointment was confirmed.

But there was further trouble ahead when the 2007 Scottish Tory annual conference was dogged by a leaked memo, written by the party's only Scottish MP, David Mundell.

'Community convicts'

It lamented the lack of "thinkers" at Holyrood and singled out Miss Goldie for criticism.

But Tory veteran Bill Walker paid tribute to her at the opening of the conference and her deputy, Murdo Fraser, stated: "Everyone - everyone - in this party owes Annabel Goldie a debt of gratitude for the steadfast leadership she has provided over the past 16 months."

Even UK Conservative leader David Cameron came to her aid when he said it was better for some people wanting to offer him advice to keep it to themselves.

Putting internal troubles behind her, Miss Goldie - a die-hard fan of BBC Scotland soap River City - threw herself into the Holyrood election campaign.

Launching her party's manifesto before anyone else, she immediately ruled out any chance of a coalition deal - claiming eight years of a Labour/Lib Dem pact had done little to enhance the public perception of devolution.

Her entrenched position paid off and the Tories were able to extract several concessions from the Scottish Government - including drugs policy and business rates - in return for supporting its first budget.

But Miss Goldie still criticised the government in areas where the two sides disagreed, including her description of SNP policy to expand non-prison sentences as "convicts in the community".


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