Michelle Ballantyne announced as Scottish leader of Reform UK
Michelle Ballantyne MSP has become the leader of Reform UK, formally known as the Brexit Party, in Scotland.
The South of Scotland MSP quit the Scottish Conservatives in November, citing differences in principles with the party under the leadership of Douglas Ross, and has been sitting as an independent MSP since.
She will now sit as a Reform MSP and takes the lead of the Scottish branch of the party ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
A key message of the party will be to reopen the economy, with Ballantyne saying lockdown “hasn’t worked” and the “collateral damage” caused by it was “far, far greater than the damage of COVID”.
She said: “COVID-19 has been the worst virus most of us have ever known and it’s left many families grieving for loved ones. Entrepreneurs have seen their life’s work ruined and thousands have lost their jobs. And our children face uncertain futures as schools are shut again and mental health problems multiply.
“Now as the UK Government has borrowed to mitigate the consequences of the COVID strategy, unanswered questions remain as to how this is going to be paid for, while the Scottish Government has made its priority harnessing the misery of the pandemic to force a constitutional event.
“Scotland needs an exit strategy – not just out of COVID, but to recover from lockdowns.
“Children need to get back to school and healthcare needs to be fully open. Human beings need to be able to interact socially.”
The party will also campaign for Scotland to remain a part of the UK, ensure taxes are no higher in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK and to protect free speech.
Last year, Ballantyne was in the running for the Scottish Tory leadership but was defeated by Jackson Carlaw by 4,917 votes to 1,581.