Ruth Davidson joins Scottish Rugby’s operational Board

Mike Soutar also appointed as a Non-Executive Director

Ruth Davidson has joined the Scottish Rugby Limited operational Board
Ruth Davidson has joined the Scottish Rugby Limited operational Board

FORMER Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson is one of two Non-Executive Directors appointments to the Scottish Rugby Limited Board announced this [Thursday] afternoon.

The other new face is businessman Mike Soutar, who has had a 30-year career in publishing, initially with DC Thomson in his native Dundee, before moving to London where he held a variety of media and publishing roles in the UK and US. He was of co-founder of Shortlist Media in 2007 (which published magazines ShortList and Stylist, as well as digital brands Emerald Street and Mr. Hyde), before having a spell as CEO of the Evening Standard.

“His business experience and leadership style also saw him work with Comic Relief, as a Trustee, and the Independent Press Standards Organisation as a Non-Executive Director. Mike has also been a familiar candidate interviewer on BBC’s The Apprentice,” said the statement announcing the appointments.


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Soutar said: “I am delighted to join the Board of Scottish Rugby Limited and look forward to working with Chair John McGuigan and my fellow Directors to build upon the remarkable legacy and progress achieved by the organisation in recent years.

“This is a transformative era for the sport, and there are substantial opportunities to expand the reach of Scottish Rugby for the benefits of all parts of the game. I am keen to support CEO Mark Dodson and his team in maximising the impact of the growing women’s game, and supporting the crucial work of grassroots community clubs. I am also very excited about the significant potential in our professional teams and the Scotland national sides to captivate a wider fan base.

“As a proud Scot and lifelong rugby enthusiast, having first played the sport as an 11-year-old schoolboy in Glenrothes, joining the Board is a genuine honour. I hope to make a meaningful contribution to the future success of Scottish Rugby.”

Davidson led the Scottish Conservatives for eight years between 2011 and 2019. In July 2021, she entered the House of Lords as Baroness Davidson of Lundin Links.

“As an experienced non-executive director across the manufacturing and financial services sectors, she has a particular interest in ensuring companies and organisations deliver their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments,” said the Murrayfield statement.

Davidson said: “As a lifelong Scotland fan, I am delighted to be joining the board of Scottish Rugby Ltd. From our community clubs through to the international teams, we have so much to be proud of – and so much further potential to be fulfilled.

“We have to match that potential with ambition and that means working collectively to ensure we are getting things right – from talent spotting to training, infrastructure to finance, safeguarding to leadership, to name but a few.

“I want to help grow the game in Scotland in any way I can and ensure the hard work which underpins it is directed in the most effective way possible.”

Davidson and Soutar are the third and fourth new appointees to the Board in the last two months, following John McGuigan coming in as Chair in May and Alexandra Whelan as a Non-Executive Director in June.

“I am delighted Ruth and Mike have agreed to join the SRL Board,” said McGuigan. “They bring significant experience gained over many years in areas that will be critical as we continue to evolve the game in Scotland.

“Alongside their experience and absolute love for the game, Mike and Ruth share my commitment to deliver results through working in partnership with all parts of Scottish Rugby.”

Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Mark Dodson added: “It is a further demonstration of the power of sport and progress Scottish Rugby is committed to making that we can welcome appointments who will deliver the level of experience and credibility Ruth and Mike will bring to the Scottish Rugby Limited Board.

“As a sport we have significant opportunities, as well as challenges, ahead in the coming years and their respective experience will be invaluable as we navigate through the sporting, financial and societal changes we will be facing.”


John McGuigan appointed as Chair of Scottish Rugby Limited

About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

66 Comments

  1. More to the point, what do “non-Executive” directors actually do that makes any damn difference to anything?

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  2. More to the point, what do “non-Executive” directors actually do that makes any damn difference to anything?

  3. Rather than evaluate one appointment on political bias, how about we see what is offered to the game in Scotland by the changes to the board before passing judgement, as quite a lot of discontentment has been expressed with the structure below the top level on these pages.

  4. Oh, my – this is all getting quite curiously fractious, isn’t it? Amongst rugby folk I mean, not those with an alternative agenda to dis this appointment and, by extension, our sport (amusing though some of the commentary has been). The editorial staff at TOL must be absolutely delighted that the announcement of a relatively minor board appointment has got so many folk in our game (and beyond it) exercised that it’s led to a 2023 record-breaking flurry of comments.
    Problem is many of them – perhaps unwittingly – are (just like Mr McCarthy’s presumably well-intentioned but I believe wholly misplaced Change.org petition) based on a completely mistaken premise. For Ms. Davidson isn’t getting anywhere near the Board of the Scottish Rugby Union / SRU, and she has NOT been appointed to it. Read the press release please.
    She has, in fact, been appointed as a NXD of Scottish Rugby Limited, you know, the subsidiary company that does the day job for us member clubs who own Scottish rugby, and to a board whose activities are overseen by the SRU Custodian Board and our new CRB. There is a whole world of a difference between the 2 bodies. And conflating the Custodian Board of the SRU – which represents and acts for the owners of Scottish rugby – with that of Scottish Rugby Limited is a bit like comparing the main board of Tennents Brewery with the works management committee @ Wellpark who’re actually responsible for the production of our glorious golden T.
    For “Ruth the Mooth” (and I doff my hat in an Ayrshire direction for reminding me of that particularly spectacular moniker) is nowhere near the board of the SRU. End of, no dispute. Consequentially, I have to ask myself, did a significant number of contributors here (some of whom really should know better) and to those who’ve called out the appointment in other outlets not get the memo from Ian Barr on governance or read the Crerar Report? Or do the facts no longer matter? Is it not the case that the vast majority of recent commentary has really got very little to do with our game and the matter’s just being “hijacked” by others to metaphorically punch someone some folk – admittedly, quite a lot of folk – don’t like for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with our game?
    For – and I say again – the SRU Board (dog) and SRL board (tail) – to which Ms. D has been appointed – are NOT the same thing. If some need to, just think about that for a moment. And I would suggest so long as you’re not here with a political agenda – of whichever political hue – but with a rugby one, relax a bit: this appointment really isn’t going to be a long-term problem. Should she make another stupefyingly dumb “rape clause” type of comment (my opinion), she’ll be gone quicker than you can say “Scotland will win the World Cup by 2016” via a member moved motion at the very next general meeting, of that I have no doubt.
    Personally, I have absolutely no idea whether the Baroness of Wherever will make a good NXD. I have no reference beyond the media (ha,ha,ha: that’s a good one!), I’ve never met her – not even at a garden party – and I’m no fan of her politics (in general terms). She has shot her mouth off on many occasions I will (with alacrity) agree, but she’s been rightly called out – and paid the price for – her past crassness. But show me a politician who hasn’t made a Jim Delahunt of themselves at some point in time or other, and I’ll give you my winning lottery ticket.
    That said, I don’t like to see the appointment of politico’s to sporting bodies, full stop. IMG, F4B and others are quite right: it just doesn’t work and for many reasons ends up distracting from the sport itself. Never mind this particular appointment, just look at that of John Reid (another Upper House occupant) as the Hoops chair and the brew-ha-ha he got himself and his club into at every CFC general meeting as another shining example of why it doesn’t work!
    What I am prepared to do though – if a tad reluctantly in this instance – is trust the process put in place by the Barr Governance Review and the new structures that are currently bedding in @ Scottish rugby. The appointment’s made now so there’s no point in crying over spilt milk and signing a petition isn’t going to make one jot of a difference to the tone-deaf executive politburo at EH12. So, I’ll wait and see just how she performs for us and contributes to our collective future – though as Shania says, her record in public life to date “don’t impress me much” so I’m not holding my breath. What I would say though is that she doesn’t have forever to prove herself unlike the previous occupants of her seat at the table whose languid occupation was so seemingly interminable: nobody’s going to put up with that kind of “over-stayed-your-welcome” nonsense again.
    And if we all want some off-field sport, why not let’s sit back and watch: if she doesn’t perform it’ll be another failure of TCD and the BTM HR supremo who have put her in place won’t it, and it’ll be yet another black mark against them, no? It’s not just Lady Ruth’s reputation that on the line after all, is it? And won’t that be fun? And we will be able to see how she gets on won’t we, using our hard-fought-for right to read published Minutes of their collective wisdom and machinations (always assuming they’ll be an accurate and fulsome record of proceedings, of course).
    So why don’t we all (in rugby I mean – not the goldfish bowl of Scottish politics) just wait and see what happens? We’ve got safeguards in place haven’t we that are a bit like Hansard – if she performs well (or is at least “competent”), we’ll know: if she doesn’t, we’ll know too and we’ll be able to raise our collective ire through our elected reps (remember them folks – our elected reps, one or two of whom have at least recently been prepared to bare their teeth – ‘cos they’re there now for a purpose and not just to enjoy the pies come internationals).
    What I really cannae be doing with though – to get back on point – is this woman being vilified and called out as if she were some kind of 17th century North Berwick witch, adrift from the contemporary zeitgeist and therefore an unwholesome, maleficent figure that’s being injected into Scottish rugby.
    Though there may indeed be witches in the Lothians these days, she isn’t one of them – she’s nothing of the sort.
    Despite her previous and much vaunted support of both the Scottish football team and Dunfermline FC and with no obvious connection to rugby (note to her pr team: update her Wikipedia page to give us all at least a vague indication of her interest in our game please), she’s just some vertically challenged woman who has been appointed – for qualities I’ll admit I don’t quite understand or see at the moment – to do a job. But presumably KPI’s to which she can in due course be held to account will be in place. If she does a job for our operating subsidiary, then great. If she doesn’t then member clubs – who own Scottish Rugby always remember – now have a process by which she can be called to account.
    And seriously, haven’t we (by which I mean Scottish rugby – not all those with an obviously anti-Davidson agenda who’re piling in here) got better things to do or get exercised about at this time of year than wring our hands and gnash our teeth over the appointment of a single politician to a subsidiary board, just one part of our overall organisation? I’m not dismissing legitimate concerns of course but what about pre-season? Player retention? Volunteer recruitment? Sponsorship? Domestic game budget allocation(s)? None of those (vastly more important issues IMO) have gone away, have they? So I’d urge, fun all this is, can we have a little perspective please?
    Whatever I or any other outside observer might think about this specific appointment, I also believe John McGuigan the new Chair of our operating subsidiary is an individual of the very highest quality and integrity, and I don’t believe is someone who will be hood-winked or let member clubs / Custodians down should it come to it. SRL is now his ba’, so let him bring to heel errant members of the BTM troupe should it ever prove necessary to do so and, if required, report to our Custodians for action.
    Unlike Hoggy’s decision yesterday, this appointment isn’t going to lead to the sky potentially falling in, so let’s not get wound up by others with an alternative, off-field agenda.

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    • Although I agree with the majority of what you’ve said, there’s one particular point I will contest, that being the underestimating of the importance of SRL, & by affiliation its Board. Virtually all of the SRU’s income comes through the SRL, before being distributed out to the whole SRU organisation as per the agreed budgets. Therefore the commercial acumen & success of this part of the organisation is critical for the continued wellbeing & development of rugby in Scotland (professional & amateur). Having SRL Board Directors highly experienced in the various facets of running a commercial sports organisation & infrastructure, & not necessarily a rugby one, is the ideal situation, & one that the SRU should be trying to achieve. Alexandra Whelan’s appointment is certainly aligned with this strategy, but I’m struggling to see how Ruth Davidson’s experience & abilities fits with this (unless her appointment is aligned to ‘political correctness’………..please excuse the pun! If this is indeed the case then the SRU should just say so in order to bring transparency.).
      You’re right in that it is the powers-to-be within the SRU who have appointed Davidson & it is for them to justify this decision. The pile-on to her is therefore somewhat unfair & misplaced, but this is what unfortunately happens when politicians, & especially polarising ones, are given oversight appointments in fervent national sports without logical reasoning being provided as to their selection (having superficial political appointments on other irrelevant Boards is not justification).

  5. Why all the vitriol for this woman? It’s SRU who have made the mistake. They’ve clearly offered her the position. For the love of God please someone point out to them that Sport and Politics do not mix. And before anyone else pips up that there are other political names in the mix, I’ve never heard of them so they can’t be ‘real’ politicians from a regular fan’s perspective. Surely even SRU aren’t infallible and they can be forgiven by just saying sorry, we made a mistake? This woman is a politician, this is a game of sport so why oh why isn’t she on her way oot the door already…? I’m not for nor against her political preferences, I’m not for nor against her choice to be who she is in any manner or form, I’m just a rugby fan who dislikes the thought that rugby is now heading down the same route as football.

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  6. As usual from the nationalsit lot its all about politics. Going on about priviledge and tories. Shes from a state school who has worked her way up to the house of lords. The jealousy is laughable. Shes a highly intelligent woman who is also married to a woman, i bet thats also the reason you lot arent liking- i think great for diversity.

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    • Working way up is a polite way to express careerism. Try identifying a particular skill or specialism she will bring to the table. Medicine, business, science, corporate governance??? The answer will be none. What she is good at is obtaining promotion and patronage off the back of no particular achievement at all. That is modern Scotland.

      As for your last sentence – there are plenty of heterosexual men in Scottish polical grift who fall under the same description and would be on the receiving end of identical critique. Diversity in and of itself is meaningless and only used to fill massive voids in CVs such as the bold Ruth’s

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    • Ahhh, the old canard.

      Accuse anyone who holds a different opinion to you of being a bigot.

      I haven’t seen any single comment on here criticising the appointment because she’s either a woman, or gay.

      So it seems its you who has the problem, not us.

      Many of us see her as a divisive liar, and her appointment as simply confirmation that the highest level of the SRU is merely a Tory back-slapping club.

      As pointed out on here, she seems to have very few qualifications for this post, other than being a high profile grifter.

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      • What’s wrong with being a Tory ?

        Well, even though I disagree with their disgusting social and economic policies, I respect everyone’s view to hold their own political opinion.

        Absolutely.

        However, given that Davidson refuses to respect Scotland’s right to stand as an independent country, I believe that her hypocrisy in becoming part of a boardroom that is there to support Scotland as a separate sporting entity is both hilarious and insulting. What are we Ruth…..an independent country playing rugby, or merely a region that happens to carry the name of a country ?

        I’m sure that standing there in her freebie director’s seat and singing FoS will see it choke in her throat.

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      • Bob, do you think every Scottish player should have their allegiance to Scotland tested by admitting under oath which political party they support before pulling on the blue jersey? Unless they support your party they can’t be true Scots and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to take the field as clearly it would be hypocrisy for them to represent Scotland? Thought not.

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      • I think Bob would be very upset if the players confirmed their political parties as it will be very different to his.

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    • So your argument is that anyone who opposes her is a nationalist homophobe is it?

      Your post says a lot about you.

  7. Depressing. She got a cross-bench seat in the Lords as her primary hustle after getting bored of fulltime work. Has never stuck at anything. Always about chasing the next gravy train opportunity. A professional grifter who has no profession to speak of and no particular skill that the SRU can call upon.

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  8. This is a fascinating set of comments. Welcome to all the new contributors. I’m sure we will see many more comments in the rugby stories on this site.

    Don’t recall the same vitriol for Malcolm Offord. Is that because of his gender? Or that he stepped down from the Board when he took up his minister position? But nothing about when he stood for the Tories in the election. Or the long term non exec position held by Lesley Thomson. Given she was appointed by the 2011 SNP administration perhaps that explains the difference?

    I’m no lover of the Tory Party but Davidson has always demonstrated an independent view even when leader of the Scottish Conservatives. She has outside of politics experience as a journalist and Non Exec roles in other companies.

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  9. Ruth is an enormously capable person and I, for one, welcome her to the SRU’s Board. She will make her presence felt and will make a positive impact!

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    • She’s a grifter who got out of Scottish politics before she was humiliated at the last set of elections, and who has been earning a pretty penny for doing nothing more than wearing ermine in the HoL (I wonder how often she turns up there).

      Given how much publicity she also got from her friends in the media, it’s a surprise that we never knew before about how much she was in love with rugby (as opposed to tanks and wrapping herself in the Union flag).

      I suppose though she’ll fit right in with the other incompetents who make up the SRU board.

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      • Not only ‘disregard’ but lack of self -awareness and self -respect with that kind of outlook ffs !

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  10. I’m pretty sure her whole comment was…’As a proud Scot (pause for laughter) who sees Scotland as nothing more than an irrelevant region of the United Kingdom, I’m joining the board to exert my considerable influence and experience. It’s already working, as you can see in the merging of Scotland’s 7s team into a Engl…I mean Team GB side. What a wonderful day for Scottish rugby that was, and I hope to see more of that’.

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  11. Sad to see many negative comments about RD’s appointment, seemly on the basis that she is a Tory. That in my opioion is just bigotry, and we have enought of that in Scotland already.

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  12. I’ve signed the online petition voicing Scotland fans displeasure about this appointment.

    My pervious post where I provided a link didn’t pass moderation.

    I wonder if this one will

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  13. I don’t recall as much vitriol when that Lib Dem oddball took a job a wee while ago. Mind, he didn’t have the moniker “rape clause”.

    Good luck.

  14. What kind of message does this send to our players when you have someone who betrays Scotland every time she opens her mouth while our players are putting their bodies on the line for their country. Unbelievable `!!!

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  15. She’s obviously got a lot of time on her hands to offer the SRU after commuting up and down from the House of Lords and a pre school child to bring up.

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  16. Further to comments below, Ruth Davidson has relevant experience. She’s already a non-executive director with life insurance, pensions and investment mutual Royal London, and a director of food group Baxters.

    It’s also glaringly obvious that the SRU Board should have involvement from people with experience of politics considering the wide range of issues it needs to manage through government relations, relating to financial support, sport in curriculums, even public health and regulations around concussion.

    I’m not arguing for or against her appointment but it just isn’t credible to claim she offers no value to the SRU board. It’s also a bit weird to claim it somehow reinforces rugby’s private school reputation, considering her lower middle class state educated background. If people don’t like her, find better arguments.

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    • “She’s already a non-executive director with life insurance, pensions and investment mutual Royal London, and a director of food group Baxters”

      These are what American mafioso refer to as “no-show” jobs. She will not make any kind of meaningful input and is there for the sole purpose of polishing up said companies’ investors prospectus.

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  17. I have no problem at all with Ruth Davidson’s appointment. She is a smart, smart lady who possesses communication skills that will prove to be extremely valuable to whoever she is working for. As someone else has said she took the Scottish Tory party from virtually non-entity to become an opposition regularly holding feet to the fire.

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  18. You’d actually be hard pushed to find a more divisive public figure in Scotland, she’s certainly in the top 10! An appointment that says a lot for the SRU, and does nothing for rugby’s image of being for/being run by out of touch posh boys.

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  19. I don’t have much to add to what’s been already said here…but its the last the SRU will see of my money whilst that article is involved.

    No discernible business experience at all. A career politician with zero morals. Sold her soul to the tories for some Ermine for her shoulders and leather for her erse.

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  20. Dodson and co. have set up a Tory cabal with Offord and now Davidson within the SRU. It sends out an utterly atrocious message to those trying to bring the game to the people. These are failed politicians who represent no-one.

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  21. Forget the politics, almost… however we cannot forget the SRU gained a massive grant from the Government and will this appointment help or hinder in a future situation? We want women more involved at the top of Rugby but there has to be Women, currently involved in the game, with organisational experience at a senior level, it’s a slap in the face for these people. The latter part of my comment also applies to the other appointment, how involved has he been in the Scottish game?

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  22. Are you kidding!!! Don’t mix sport and politics! What on earth are the SRU doing? We spend a lot of money on tickets and merchandise, but this really makes us question that. Regardless of political views, why exclude a huge proportion of the population with a political appointment. Absolute madness, and very disappointed 😠

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  23. Hard to believe some of the comments I’m reading on this appointment, although I perhaps shouldn’t be surprised. Whether or not you agree with her politics does not matter. As a Board member, the question we should care about is if she has the capability to hold the Executive to account. And given her experience elsewhere, I’ve no doubt that she will.

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    • I agree her politics should be irrelevant (and hers are not mine). But What experience of top level involvement in a similar sized organisation does she have? What oversight experience? what financial insight? What exactly does she bring?

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    • Ok….lets take politics out of this.

      What are her qualifications to be on an operational board of a commercial enterprise owned by its members?

      A radio journalist and served in the Territorial army. Two degrees in Literature and International development. That’s the limits of her exposure to any business or commercial operation.

      So, when you leave the fact that she’s a sitting peer out of it sh’e as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

      So tell me how her politics has nothing to do with this appointment again?

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    • Her politics and more importantly the way she went about her political career matters a lot as it tells you much about the person. And what it says is not good.

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  24. This woman did nothing for the people as a member of parliament or a member of the Scottish parliament.under no circumstances should she be anywhere near the Scottish rugby board.

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    • Another nice little earner…
      All these new people on SRU & Custodian boards will enjoy talking bull between themselves – because we know for certain they are unequipped to talk about rugby!

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  25. This is certainly not a choice for the people but for privileged few once again, this is how to turn ordinary people away from Rugby, a big mistake

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  26. Politics, & politicians, have no place in rugby other than as players or spectating supporters. Davidson’s appointment is a potentially disastrous move through its likely divisiveness & may well set Scottish Rugby back by decades if not promptly addressed. It feels like the SRU Boards have gone completely off the rails & are not in tune with the ethos of the Scottish game & the grass roots membership!

    This leads onto the question of whether the SRU has shifted too much from being a organisation run by ex-players with minimal corporate experience, to being run by corporate people with too little rugby & hands-on business experience! Prof Crerar’s governance proposals may have been favourably received & agreed, but their implementation appears to be lacking in judgement & appropriate experience balance.

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    • Brilliantly put IMG Thanks for expressing in words how I feel about the appointment of this odious individual.

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      • Thank you for your recognition. I would like to clarify that my comment was directed at the appointment of a politician & would have been equally applicable to any other politician from whatever party, or for that matter anyone from any other domain who would negatively divide opinion & undermined the advancement of rugby within Scotland. I would have no issue with Ruth Davidson being appointed to any of the Boards if she wasn’t a polarising politician (or former) and had the necessary expertise to compliment the Board Members already there. As her journalistic background is similar to Mike Soutar, but nowhere near as extensive, then I fail to see how her appointment will advance the effectiveness of the Board, other than from what she can take from her political career/ dealings! Given the present integrity issues within politics, and as business integrity is vital, especially for the SRU to maximise sponsorship income, then the people who decided on this appointment should be made to publish the justification behind it. Otherwise the integrity of SRU governance will be undermined.

  27. Davidson wants to ‘Grow the game in Scotland’ ,her name on the SRU board of directors is likely to do exactly the opposite.

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    • Well she did a good job growing the Conservative vote against the odds. Very smart and capable women who was a very good operator and excellent communicator. A good appointment in my view, she’ll be nobody’s fool.

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      • Ok Davosa, due to your political leanings you’re not a fan of her, we get it. She’s come onto the Board as a non exec, she’s not running the show. Time will tell if she is effective in her role or not. Enjoy your weekend.

    • That sounds a touch petty, almost like she’s not in my political camp…therefore !

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    • So current players will stop playing and parents will not let their kids play rugby because there is a politician on the Board. Really!!!

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