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by Emily Woods
14 February 2020
Jackson Carlaw elected leader of Scottish Conservatives

Image credit: PA

Jackson Carlaw elected leader of Scottish Conservatives

Jackson Carlaw has been elected leader of the Scottish Conservatives, winning more than 75 per cent of party members’ votes against fellow candidate Michelle Ballantyne.

Carlaw, who has been interim leader of the party since Ruth Davidson quit as leader in August last year, secured 4,917 votes to beat Ballantyne, who received 1,581 votes.

In a speech after the announcement on Friday morning, Carlaw said he wanted to see the Scottish Conservatives “change further and for the better”.

“New faces, new thinking, new ideas and renewed drive and determination. That will involve change, new appointments later today and in the coming days, both political and professional,” he said.

On Friday afternoon, Carlaw announced his joint deputy leaders would be Glasgow MSP Annie Wells and North East MSP Liam Kerr, who has been in the role since September.

He also announced Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton as party chairwoman, alongside existing chairman Rab Forman.

Carlaw said he would reveal the full “new and reinvigorated team at Holyrood” next week.

Speaking to journalists after the election results, Carlaw said there would be “a considerable overhaul of our operation" including a full review into the party's policies, ahead of the 2021 Holyrood election.

 “We are not ready at the moment, either politically, or organisationally, to fight an election we can win,” he said.

“We have a short window of opportunity. I've got the ideas and plans to put in place to achieve that and we'll be progressing them with real urgency.”

Carlaw said he would be speaking to Prime Minister Boris Johnson shortly after his appearance.

“I've already said to the Prime Minister that my job as leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party will be, when I think Scotland's interests require me to speak out, I will," he said. 

The competition between the two candidates became bitter in recent weeks. Asked whether he had any regrets about how personal the campaign had become, Carlaw said: “I was concerned that we were being unduly harsh on what was an extremely difficult general election campaign for us. That’s now looking backwards.

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

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

Asked whether he “liked Michelle”, Carlaw said: “I like all of my colleagues. I’m not by nature anyone who holds grudges, I’ve been in politics for 45 years.”

Ballantyne gave a short speech following the announcement: “We now have a party behind a mandated leader, so I want to thank Jackson for running the campaign beside me, and I think we can move forward unitedly without seeing any challenge to whether or not we have chosen our leader, we have chosen him decisively.”

“I think there has been a good debate, I think we’ve had some very clear messages from our members of what they want to see,” she said.

Former leader Davidson congratulated Carlaw on his win, and said the role of leader was “what I have always considered to be the best job in Scottish politics”.

“His time as both deputy leader and interim leader mean he is by far the most experienced person ever to have undertaken this role and I know he will have the whole party behind him as he leads us into next year's Holyrood elections,” she said.

Davidson said Carlaw would have her “absolute and unwavering support in the decisions he takes in order to get us fighting fit for next May”.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown congratulated Carlaw on his win, but said: “The big test for Mr Carlaw will be whether he will stand up for Scotland’s interests against Boris Johnson.

“He used to say that Boris Johnson wasn’t fit to be Prime Minister. He was right – but then he campaigned for precisely that. Just as they went from Remainers to hard Brexiteers, it’s obvious that the Scottish Tories will continue to parrot whatever line they’re handed down from Westminster.”

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