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Jackson Carlaw resigns as Scottish Conservatives leader

Image credit: David Anderson/Holyrood

Jackson Carlaw resigns as Scottish Conservatives leader

Jackson Carlaw has announced his resignation as leader of the Scottish Conservatives, saying he has reached the “simple if painful conclusion” that he is not “best placed” to lead the party into the next election.

He said a new leader would be able to make the case for the Scottish Conservatives and the Union “better than me” .

Carlaw, who was officially elected leader of the party in February after a contest against Michelle Ballantyne, said he would stand down “with immediate effect”.

“Over the summer I have had the chance to think hard about my role as leader of the Scottish Conservatives. Nothing is more important to me than making the case for Scotland's place in the United Kingdom,” he said.

“I believe the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party is the most important voice in Scotland for setting out that positive argument. I am clear that nothing must get in the way of doing so.

“In the last few weeks, I have reached a simple if painful conclusion - that I am not, in the present circumstances, the person best placed to lead that case over these next vital months in Scottish politics prior to the Holyrood elections.

“Given the importance I attach to the job, I've therefore decided to stand down with immediate effect.”

The shock announcement came via a statement on Thursday afternoon, after an angry clash in Scottish Parliament with Nicola Sturgeon over her claims that Scotland’s coronavirus prevalence was five times lower than England's.

He became interim leader of the party in August 2019, after Ruth Davidson stepped down from the role.

Carlaw said the decision was “not an easy call” but that he had spent “a lifetime in politics holding to the maxim that party and country comes first”.

“I believe I am doing my duty by holding to that view now. I simply believe that a new leader will be able, as we recover from the COVID emergency, to make the case for the Scottish Conservatives and the Union better than me. That is all that matters,” he said.

“I leave the job with genuine pride at my time in office, both as interim leader and as leader for the last year. I especially enjoyed the eight years as deputy leader and being an integral part of the success achieved.

“Managing the transition from Ruth Davidson's leadership to a refreshed party has been a challenging task but I feel confident that I leave the role with the party in good heart and, crucially, with time to elect a new leader so he or she can prepare for the elections next year.

“The Scottish Conservatives will fight those elections as we have always done - as the one party that will unequivocally speak up for all those Scots who do not want to go back to more division, but instead want our country to move on, as part of the United Kingdom, able to rise to the challenges of the future. I will fight that cause hard for these next few vital months as a loyal member of my party.”

Responding to the news, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Carlaw had been “a tremendous servant to the Scottish Conservative Party for more than four decades”.

“As an activist, deputy chairman, deputy leader and leader, he has given his all and deserves our thanks for his efforts,” the PM said.

“It is a mark of his commitment to the cause that he chooses to stand aside at this time and I offer my best wishes to him, Wynne and the family.”

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