Jackson Carlaw elected Scottish Conservatives leader

Carlaw saw off a challenge from Michelle Ballantyne to win the race to replace Ruth Davidson.

Carlaw has been interim leader since Ruth Davidson stepped down last August. Getty Images
Carlaw has been interim leader since Ruth Davidson stepped down last August.

Jackson Carlaw has been elected as the new permanent leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

Carlaw saw off a challenge from social security spokeswoman Michelle Ballantyne, having spent the last five months as interim leader.

After winning the backing from party members by 4917 votes to 1581, he now succeeds Ruth Davidson – who quit as party leader in August – on a permanent basis.

The hunt for her successor was delayed by December’s general election and Carlaw remained favourite throughout the campaign, despite the Tories losing seven Westminster seats in Scotland.

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Carlaw insisted he now had a clear mandate from the party to “make the changes required to lead us into the election next year”.

He added: “This is not about asking the people of Scotland to re-elect us as a strong opposition, this is about offering the people of Scotland a clear alternative to the SNP and then fighting all the way to polling day next year to provide them with an alternative government.”

Glasgow MSP Annie Wells will be joint deputy leader, alongside Carlaw’s campaign manager Liam Kerr, who has been in the role since September.

Rachael Hamilton, the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP, becomes party chairwoman, working jointly with existing chairman Rab Forman.

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Carlaw said he would push ahead with a review of party policies – which could see the Tories U-turn on their opposition to free higher education in Scotland as well as considering their position on the two-child cap brought in by the Conservatives at Westminster on some welfare payments.

After the policy review, Carlaw said he would then ask “the people of Scotland to elect a Scottish Conservative government as the largest party at Holyrood in 2021.

He added: “In those circumstances I would hope to be the first minister delivering on that alternative programme.

“The result today demonstrates I have the clear confidence of the party. I have a bigger share of the vote than Boris Johnson achieved in his leadership election, I have a bigger share of the vote than Ruth Davidson achieved, a bigger share of the vote than David Cameron achieved in any of the previous Conservative Party leadership elections.

“So I have a clear mandate from the party in Scotland now to make the changes required to lead us into the election next year.”

Analysis: ‘Carlaw’s biggest task is to unite party over indyref2’

By STV politics correspondent Ewan Petrie

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Whether the Scottish Conservatives like it or not, the reality is that next year’s Holyrood election is going to be about indyref2.

Ahead of that, the party is going to have to make a decision on where it stands on this.

Currently, it is split into two camps.

On one side there are those who believe that if there is a majority of MSPs elected who back independence, then they will have to shift their position and support a second referendum.

Then there is the another group that simply couldn’t stomach that, and would insist on sticking to the current line that 2014 was a ‘once in a generation’ event.

The two sides are poles apart.

Jackson Carlaw’s biggest challenge between now and next May will be finding a policy that can somehow unite them.

That is no easy task, and he will need every ounce of the mandate won today to achieve it.


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