Douglas Ross named new Scottish Conservative leader

Former government minister Douglas Ross has been confirmed as the new Scottish Conservative leader.

The 37-year-old takes on the role after winning the leadership without a contest.

The Moray MP was the only candidate to put their name forward to replace Jackson Carlaw, who quit as the Scottish Tories‘ leader last week.

Douglas Ross in 2017. Pic: Peter Jolly/Shutterstock
Image: The former dairy farmer will focus on leading the Unionist cause Pic: Peter Jolly/Shutterstock

Mr Carlaw said he had come to the “painful conclusion” that he was not the best person to lead the case for Scotland remaining in the UK.

And it will be fronting the Unionist cause that will now become Mr Ross’s major focus ahead of Scottish Parliament elections next year.

He said being named the Scottish Tories’ new leader was “the honour and privilege of a lifetime”.

“Now our focus must turn to earning the trust of people looking for a positive and credible alternative for Scotland, and who want a fresh start for our country,” he added.

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Support for Scottish independence appears to have risen this year and several recent polls have found a majority of Scots in favour of breaking away from the UK.

Last month, a Panelbase poll found support for a “Yes” vote in an independence referendum was at 54% and support for “No” at 46%.

This is a near-reversal of the result of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, in which 55% voted against breaking away from the UK.

Should they gain a majority at next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, the SNP have vowed to hold another independence referendum.

Mr Ross, who does not currently sit in the Scottish Parliament, will hope to win a seat at Holyrood in next May’s election.

But he has said he has no plans to quit the House of Common before the next general election, scheduled for 2024.

Dominic Cummings, top aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arrives at the back of Downing Street, London.
Image: Mr Ross quit the government amid the row over Dominic Cummings’s lockdown trips

In Mr Ross’s absence from the Holyrood chamber until the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson will face SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions.

During her leadership, Ms Davidson revived the Tories’ fortunes in Scotland and saw the party win 13 seats at Westminster at the 2017 general election.

However, the Remain supporter quit as Scottish Conservative leader shortly after Boris Johnson became prime minister, as she cited the conflict she felt over Brexit and her hope of achieving a better balance in her life as a new mother.

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At last year’s general election, under Mr Carlaw’s leadership in Scotland, the Tories won only six seats at Westminster as the SNP took 48 out of 59 constituencies.

Mr Ross supported Mr Johnson in the later rounds of last year’s Conservative leadership contest, but he has not been afraid to challenge the prime minister.

In May, he quit his position as a junior minister in the Scotland Office amid the controversy over lockdown trips taken by Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief aide.

Mr Ross said Mr Cummings’s view of the coronavirus rules was “not shared by the vast majority of people”.

Tory MP Douglas Ross and Lionel Messi
Image: Mr Ross is a qualified professional referee

The former dairy farmer sat in the Scottish Parliament from May 2016 until the general election in June 2017, when he was elected Moray’s MP.

He is a qualified professional football referee and was one of the officials at the 2015 Scottish Cup Final.

Shortly after becoming an MP, Mr Ross curtailed his refereeing career and ended his dream of officiating at a World Cup after coming under fire for skipping a welfare debate at Westminster.

He was instead officiating at a Champions League clash between Barcelona and Olympiacos.

Parliamentary records showed he had earned thousands of pounds refereeing football matches up until that point.

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