Douglas Ross has become an official leadership candidate in his bid to take charge of the Scottish Conservatives.
The Moray MP has passed the threshold of 100 nominations needed under party rules to formally enter the contest to replace Jackson Carlaw.
The departing Scottish Tory leader resigned abruptly on Thursday, saying he had come to the “painful decision” the party needed a fresher face to lead it.
The party under Carlaw – who took over from Ruth Davidson – has been hampered by poor polling and rising support for independence in recent months.
Carlaw said he felt he was “no longer the person best placed” to make the case for the union in Scotland.
Ross launched his leadership campaign in Edinburgh on Friday pledging “strong, decisive leadership” for his party.
And speaking at a virtual Zoom press conference on Saturday morning, he put localism as a “top priority” of his leadership.
Under his charge, the Scottish Tories would seek to “set out new ways to take powers out of the hands of ministers at Holyrood and hand them back to our communities” who he said “feel they have little or no control over their way of life”.
Ross added: “Nicola Sturgeon is right, there has been a power grab. But it’s not been performed by the UK Government but by her own.”
If he wins, he will seek election as an MSP in next May’s Holyrood election, though he also plans to continue as an MP, as well as continue to be a football referee.
Davidson would stand in as leader of the parliamentary Tory party at Holyrood until Ross took his seat, including facing off against Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions.
Anyone else who wishes to run for the Scottish Conservative leadership will need to secure 100 nominations by midnight on Wednesday.
Ross said: “I’m delighted to have reached this key milestone in a short space of time.
“Since Jackson’s resignation I’ve been speaking to colleagues and gathering support, and I’ve been really pleased with the feedback I’ve received.
“The focus now for me is to continue speaking to members and colleagues to assure them I’m the right man to take the fight to the SNP.”
Speaking at his press conference, the Scottish Tory leadership candidate said: “I want all parts of Scotland to get a proper voice in our country.
“Nicola Sturgeon is right, there has been a power grab. But it’s not been performed by the UK Government but by her own.
“Over 13 years, too much power has been drawn into the SNP’s hands in Edinburgh and our regions, cities and towns have lost control as a result.
“Under my leadership, a top priority of the Scottish Conservatives will be to set out new ways to take powers out of the hands of ministers at Holyrood and hand them back to our communities, our rural areas, our towns and villages, who feel they have little or no control over their way of life.”
Ross added: “In short, I plan to power up Scotland.
“Scotland is not a monochrome, monoculture nation as some would have it.
“From the vibrancy of our cities, to the distinct culture of the Highlands and Islands, to the traditions of the south of Scotland, we have so much to offer.
“Our mission will be to give expression to the variety and richness our extraordinary country contains.”
Speaking on the same Zoom call, Davidson said she is “proud and excited” to call Ross her boss and to help him launch a “fightback” against the SNP.
The ex-party leader, due to join the House of Lords when she steps down as an MSP next year, said she knows “how tough” leadership can be.
Davidson went on: “I know it takes dedication, determination, hard graft and 100% commitment to achieving your goals, plus the strength of character to take the blows to brush yourself off to stick to the course.
“Douglas has these qualities in spades.”
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