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Jackson Carlaw launches Scottish Conservative leadership campaign with promise to ‘walk 500 miles’ to take on the SNP

Jackson Carlaw - Image credit: David Anderson/Holyrood

Jackson Carlaw launches Scottish Conservative leadership campaign with promise to ‘walk 500 miles’ to take on the SNP

Jackson Carlaw channelled the Proclaimers as he promised to “walk 500 miles and then 500 more, to take the fight to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP” as he launched his campaign for the Scottish Conservative leadership.

Carlaw condemned the SNP’s record on a number of areas including teacher numbers, educational performance, places for Scottish students at Scottish universities, hospital builds, GPs, drug deaths and ferries.

But he said that exposing the SNP’s “record of shameful failure and neglect” was not enough and the Conservatives had to offer a “positive, credible alternative”.

Carlaw said his vision for the party was based on “aspirational conservatism that promotes the values and ambitions of middle Scotland”.

The Scottish Conservative interim leader promised to make changes to benefit those earning just above the £26,000 with a “rebalancing” of taxation focused on those on lower incomes as well as ensuring UK Government cuts to national insurance are passed on in Scotland and ditching the workplace parking levy.

Carlaw also promised 2,000 more teachers to restore numbers to what they had been when the SNP took office and more flexible childcare provision.

With less than 18 months to the next Scottish Parliament election, Carlaw emphasising his experience and that he had been “tested” in leading the party and “taking on” Nicola Sturgeon.

He said: “I’ve worked at every level of this party for over 40 years both as a volunteer and an elected representative. I value every bit of it.

“Whether as an association activist or office bearer, a councillor, MSP or MP, I value each and every effort.

“I’ve been there, done it. But that entitles me to absolutely nothing. Like everything else in life, what you want has to be earned.

“And while the members of this party will rightly be the judge of it, I believe I have shown I’ve got what it takes to lead this party and to take it forward. I believe I am battle tested.

“I don’t say that lightly. It took Ruth [Davidson] several years and a referendum for her to advance this party. I should know, I was there with her every step of the way.

“And I know something else. Once we get this leadership contest over, we need to hit the ground running, because time is very short.

“Over the last year, I’ve stepped up to do things I hadn’t expected I would have to.

“Week after week, I’ve gone toe-to-toe with Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions. I’ve taken her on during televisions debates.

“I’ve led our party through a tough general election battle. I think I’ve shown I’ve got the right stuff.

“So yes, I feel I am tested, that I do have the experience to take us forward as a party and to win even greater success in future.

“I have spent the last 18 months taking on Nicola Sturgeon. I am asking you now to let me spend the next 18 months taking her down.”

Carlaw, whose campaign is co-chaired by Rachael Hamilton and Liam Kerr, has the support of 23 of the 31 Conservative MSPs at Holyrood, as well as all of Scotland’s Conservative council leaders.

But fellow MSP Michelle Ballantyne has gained the necessary 100 signatures from party members in order to stand against him, vowing that it would not be a “coronation”.

Ballantyne’s plans for the party include giving members a greater role in setting policy, giving local Conservative associations more power, a review of party procedures and work to attract more ‘blue collar’ support, as Boris Johnson did in the general election, and a deputy leader from among the MPs at Westminster.

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