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Scottish Conservative leader resigns

The Unionist party divided?

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Image Credit: Photo by derekmuller

Last night, The leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party Jackson Carlaw (MSP for Eastwood) in a shocking maneuver had decided to resign from the party leadership only 5 months in post.

The reasons stated for him stepping down are speculated to be multifaceted. As stated in an interview with the BBC yesterday evening, Mr. Carlaw recounted that his decision had been arrived at after “thinking hard” and coming to “a painful conclusion” that perhaps he was not the person best situated to lead the Party to an election victory in the next Scottish Parliament election in May 2021. He alluded then as a potential successor, that it should ideally be an individual that will bring a “younger and fresher voice” to the party.

It is however heavily postulated by The Times that Mr. Carlaw’s resignation was actually orchestrated, that he was ousted by senior party figures amid abysmal results in recent polls which had suggested both increasing support for Scottish independence and that as leader he failed to be a “visible” representative of Unionism. This is evident in the 2019 General election results, taking the party from 13 to 6 six seats, arguably retrenching what many had dubbed the “Conservative revival in Scotland” led by former leader Ruth Davidson.

What happens next?

It is no secret that the party favourite to replace Mr. Carlaw is Douglas Ross MP for Moray. It comes as no surprise that Ross has decided to stand for leadership as he has seen a significant rise in popularity among Scottish voters after resigning from the government post of Junior Scottish Minister. This was in response to The Prime Minister's Chief Aid Dominic Cummings braking Lockdown regulations to travel 60 miles to Durham. As a matter of fact, he is also the preferred choice of Scottish Tory trailblazer Ruth Davidson, who lobbied for his standing in the next leadership contest the night Mr. Carlaw resigned.  This afternoon The Herald reports that Ms. Davidson stated she was “delighted to back” him and that Douglas Ross has the “vision, drive, and energy to take our party forward”.

On the other hand, there is a great deal of confusion. Why is it so that the most successful Scottish Conservative leader is avoiding throwing her hat in the ring? And how can Douglas Ross MP become party leader if he is an MP and not an MSP? Well, it is said that the former leader will represent the Scottish Conservatives in Chambers until the next Scottish Parliament election, as an interim leader, but will give up her seat and not stand for re-election in May if Mr. Ross was successful in swapping his Westminster seat for Holyrood. It is possible also that Davidson's reluctance to run stems from her potentially taking her place in the Lords after an offer of a peerage from Boris Johnson. It is in Mays Election that Mr. Ross will be fighting for leadership and the necessary seat in Holyrood, it is possible that he is being shortlisted for the Highland and Islands seat.

If much of what is being said about the resurgence of Nationalist support is true, then the Scottish Conservatives are about to face the battle of a lifetime. It appears to many Scots and Conservatives alike, that only a new leader can unite the Unionist vote and fight the growing tide of support for independence.

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Douglas Ross MP for Moray (Photo by David Woolfall)

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