Scottish Conservative leader resigns after six months in leadership

The Devolved Scottish Parliament sits at Holyrood. Source: pschemp (via: WikiMedia Commons)
Jackson Carlaw has resigned as leader of the Scottish Conservative party after officially taking up the position in February this year

By Hallum Cowell | Deputy Editor

The leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, Jackson Carlaw, has resigned just six months after he officially began as party leader in February.

In a statement, the now-former party leader said he had made the “painful conclusion” that he was no longer the right person to lead the party into next year’s Holyrood election, with the Scottish Parliamentary election set to take place in May 2021.

Mr Carlaw, therefore, decided to stand down with immediate effect.

Having taken over as interim leader 11 months ago, this new development followed just hours after a combative session at First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s question.

In response to the departure of Mr Carlaw, First Minister and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon took to Twitter to state;

Who is Jackson Carlaw?

First elected to Holyrood in 2007, Carlaw previously acted as the Scottish Conservative Party’s deputy leader under Ruth Davidson. Jackson Carlaw later succeeded Ruth Davidson as the Party leader, having served as interim leader whilst Ms Davidson was on maternity leave.

Serving currently as the MSP for Eastwood, Mr Carlaw said he had “spent a lifetime in politics holding to the Maxim that party and country come first”.

Mr Carlaw also commented that he was leaving the leadership position in “good heart and, crucially with time to elect a new leader so he or she can prepare for the elections next year”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded to Mr Carlaw’s resignation, stating that he had been a “tremendous servant” to the party for more than four decades.

Who will replace Mr Carlaw as party leader?

Mr Carlaw stated he had been “thinking hard” over the past few months about his role as party leader, coming to the conclusion that the Scottish Conservative Party needed a “younger and fresher voice”.

But who will replace Jackson Carlaw as party leader?

The Scottish Conservative Party will now undergo its second leadership contest of the year. 

The BBC has reported that the former Scotland Office Minister Douglas Ross is being urged to run for leadership, but it is also understood that there is a discussion amongst Scottish Conservatives surrounding Ms Davidson’s return to the role until the Holyrood 2021 elections – where Mr Ross would hope to gain a seat.

Mr Douglas resigned as Scotland Office Minister in protest after the scandal surrounding Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham during the national lockdown. 

Douglas Ross has since stressed that Downing Street and Dominic Cummings were not the reason for his decision to run for the Scottish Conservative leadership, stating he will stay on as an MP if he became leader. 

With the Scottish Parliamentary elections due in May 2021, it will be interesting to see whether Mr Carlaw’s hope of keeping Scotland within the UK will succeed.

The Scottish Conservative Party currently holds the second-most seats in the Scottish Parliament, also known as Holyrood, at 31 seats. The current ruling party, the Scottish National Party (SNP) holds almost double this amount, with 61 seats.

The latest Panelbase polls put the SNP’s likelihood of winning the election at 55%, with the Scottish Conservative Party at a distant 20%. Three consecutive Panelbase polls on independence for Scotland has polled support for an independent Scotland at around 52%-54% – the highest on record.

Although speculation as to whether Douglas Ross will indeed take over as Scottish Conservative Party leader remains a key topic amongst Scottish politicians, it will be interesting to see whether this sudden change in leadership will affect the Scottish Conserative Party’s run during next year’s election.

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Politics Hallum Cowell

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