The Rise Of Ruth Davidson

6 May 2016, 07:50 | Updated: 6 May 2016, 08:02

People across Scotland are ''sending the SNP a message'', Ruth Davidson declared as she led the Scottish Conservatives to what is forecast to be their best ever performance at Holyrood.

Results indicate that the Tory leader's own popularity - cemented with a decisive win in the Edinburgh Central constituency - and her pro-union campaign strategy are resonating with voters.

First elected as an MSP five years ago and selected as leader just a few months after that, Ms Davidson, 37, has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of her party.

At the start of this campaign she set her sights on one main goal - making the Conservatives the second largest party in the Scottish Parliament - a target which now looks within reach.

Ms Davidson adopted a very honest, and somewhat unusual, approach to the campaign, admitting openly that she was not going to win.

Instead she told voters she could be the ``strong opposition'' that Scotland needs to challenge another majority SNP government.

Leaflets, posters and the ballot papers in the election sought to capitalise on her relative popularity, featuring the slogan ''Ruth Davidson for a strong opposition''.

Recognising the presidential-style approach, Ms Davidson said: ''I feel ready personally, I feel ready to serve as the leader of the official opposition, ready to take on Nicola Sturgeon.

''I think that we'll have a team behind me that can make me confident that we can do a good job.''

Winning in Edinburgh Central, she declared: ''There are people right across Scotland who are sending the SNP a message - the voices and the decision we made as a country will not be ignored.

''Nowhere is that more evident than Edinburgh Central, where we were coming from fourth position.''

Her openness about issues such as her sexuality - her partner Jen Wilson has featured in a previous Tory election broadcast - is perhaps one of the reasons why Ms Davidson's personal popularity is high despite her party remaining for many Scots a ''toxic'' brand and David Cameron's continuing unpopularity north of the border.

The ebullient Scottish Tory leader built on plaudits gained during the independence referendum with an attention-grabbing general election campaign last year that saw her sitting astride a tank, playing bingo and having a go at the bagpipes.

A self-confessed ''dreadful show-off'', the former journalist's love of a wacky photocall continued in this campaign, with the leader getting behind the wheel of a race care, sitting on a bull during a farm visit, and enjoying a ski-doo trip on the top of Cairngorm.