Tory MP Douglas Ross confirms plans to stand for Scottish Conservative leader
The Tory MP has set out his opening pitch to members
Tory MP Douglas Ross has confirmed his plans to stand for the leadership of the Scottish Conservative party.
The Moray MP has announced his plan to run for the top role, saying he would deliver "strong, decisive leadership" ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May 2021.
It comes after Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw announced on Thursday that he was stepping down with immediate effect because he felt he was not the "best placed" candidate to lead the party.
Mr Ross, who resigned from the government during the row over Dominic Cummings' controversial lockdown trip to Durham, is the first candidate to put his name forward for the role.
In a statement announcing his bid, he said: "This is a crucial time in Scottish politics.
"We are months away from an important election, and need strong, decisive leadership of our party to take on and defeat the SNP in seats right across the country."
"My message to voters across Scotland will be this: if you want to build a better Scotland, if you want to beat the SNP, and if you want to put the divisions of the past few years behind us, the party I plan to lead is one you can unite behind, and one that can win."
He added: “I want us to show clearly to everyone in Scotland, no matter where they live or who they are, that if they want to move on from the divisions of the past and focus on the issues that really matter; a strong economy, good schools, safe streets and a world-leading NHS then the Scottish Conservatives will be their voice.
"Scotland is an integral part of the United Kingdom and that’s a relationship I want to maintain and improve. Under my leadership, this will be an absolute priority."
Mr Ross was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2016, and switched to Westminster at last year’s election when he defeated the SNP’s then-deputy leader Angus Robertson to become the MP for Moray.
But he confirmed that if successful in his leadership bid he would seek election as an MSP at the next Holyrood election.
In the meantime, he said that former leader Ruth Davdison had agreed to stand in for him at the weekly First Minister's Question sessions.
The 37-year-old is viewed as a rising star in the party, and became a minister in the Scotland Office in the wake of Boris Johnson’s election victory last year.
But he quit the government payroll in May after saying he could not tell voters they "were all wrong and one senior adviser to the Government was right" amid fierce criticism of Mr Cummings, the top Number 10 aide, over his decision to travel to Durham at the height of the national lockdown.
The hunt for a new Scottish Tory leader comes less than a year before the May 2021 elections to the Scottish Parliament, with the incumbent SNP polling strongly and support for Scottish independence climbing.