New Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw has reshuffled his frontbench team, axing leadership rival Michelle Ballantyne.
Revealing his new shadow cabinet, Carlaw made a number of changes, including sacking Ballantyne, who he defeated in last week’s leadership contest by 4917 votes to 1581.
Carlaw had served as interim leader since Ruth Davidson’s departure in August and Ballantyne, who held the post of shadow social security secretary, was his only challenger in an occasionally tense contest.
Ballantyne was particularly critical of the Scottish Tory campaign in December’s general election, in which the party lost more than half of its Westminster seats, down from 13 to six.
In other moves, Murdo Fraser will switch from his former finance brief to become shadow constitution secretary to help “make a fresh, new, positive case for the union”.
His predecessor Adam Tomkins will move to the newly-created shadow cabinet secretary for strategy ahead of the 2021 Holyrood election, as Carlaw vowed to turn his party into a “government in waiting”.
Long-serving shadow education secretary Liz Smith has been moved to chief whip, replaced by Jamie Greene, while Donald Cameron will take over the shadow finance brief.
Ballatyne’s social security portfolio will be taken on by Graham Simpson in addition to housing and communities.
Glasgow MSP Annie Wells’ new role as joint deputy leader alongside shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr has also been formalised, with Wells also made shadow environment secretary.
Carlaw said: “This is a brand new shadow cabinet designed to take on the SNP leading up to May 2021, and take the Scottish Conservatives into government after it.
“We’ve got the best people fighting in the best places, and they’re going to bring us onto the next level.
“I said during the leadership campaign that I wanted to press the positive case for the union across all areas of political debate, and that’s exactly what Murdo Fraser – one of Holyrood’s most senior and respected MSPs – will be doing.”
The Scottish Tory leader added: “It’s simply not enough for us to be a strong and effective opposition anymore.
“We need to prove to the people of Scotland that we’re a government in waiting, and that’s exactly what I intend to do over the next 15 months.”
He accused the SNP of presiding over a “deterioration” in public services across the board, citing “an education system in crisis, a health service which is on its knees, and an economy which lags badly behind the rest of the UK”.
It comes after Nicola Sturgeon reshuffled her own top team in the wake of finance secretary Derek Mackay’s shock resignation, replacing him with Kate Forbes – the first woman to ever serve in the role.
The First Minister revealed on Tuesday she has not spoken to Mackay since he quit over hundreds of messages he sent to a 16-year-old boy.
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