New Conservative Leader...New Approach?

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

By Dillon Kennedy

Last week saw the unexpected and shocking departure of Jackson Carlaw as leader of the Scottish Conservatives. As someone who supported Jackson through the leadership election between him and Michelle Ballantyne MSP and his time in office, it did come as a shock as it appeared on BBC News. The resignation started nominations to find a new leader and only one candidate put his name into the fold for consideration, that is current Member of Parliament for Moray, Douglas Ross MP. No rival candidates put their name forward and yesterday, Douglas Ross became the leader of the Scottish Conservatives and Unionist Party.

Douglas is the current MP for the constituency of Moray, beating the SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson not just one time in 2017 but in the December 2019 general election too. He is a former minister in the Scotland Office and has served as a councillor, MSP for Highlands and Islands and MP. Because Douglas is not a Member of the Scottish Parliament Ruth Davidson, the former leader for 8 years is going to face Nicola Sturgeon and hold her to account and will challenge the SNP at First Minister Questions. The pressure presented by newly founded unionist media on Twitter and a show of dissatisfaction with current leadership is likely to blame for this shock move. Furthermore, George Galloway's Alliance for Unity party has attracted a significant following. While George Galloway is not universally liked he is well known, charismatic and a veteran campaigner. His party also has several other candidates with impressive political backgrounds. It would, therefore, be foolish to write them off. Indeed it is clear that the Scottish Conservatives have not. There has clearly been an awakening within the party as it tries to reposition itself before 2021 in light of trends in the polls and changes to the Scottish political landscape. The party wants to ensure that all its heavy hitters are front and centre. If the policies and campaign are similarly hard-hitting and the divided unionist vote problem is navigated success could be found. Hopefully, such an approach does not backfire. Re-acquainting the Scottish public with Ruth Davidson and sweeping her away for someone they are likely to be less familiar with might paint the image of a party in disarray as it relentlessly changes its leaders. However, the new passion coming from the party in regards to 2021 shows that any teething problems or creases that need to be ironed out are ultimately going to be worth it.

The focus of the Scottish Conservatives should turn to earning the trust of people looking for a positive and credible alternative to this SNP Government who are so determined to divide Scotland from the rest of the UK. We need a government that works for the Scottish people and we need a fresh start from the past 13 years. I believe that this is possible now we have Douglas at the helm of the party. He has signalled that it is intended to unveil a plan for the economy in his first 30 days of his leadership, sparking our election campaign for 2021 parliamentary election. He also believes that local authorities should be handed more powers to make decisions instead of just the Scottish government making them for councils. This would mean stripping powers away from Holyrood and handing them to councils up and down Scotland and reverse the power grab over the 13 years of the SNP leadership. A focus on the economy is always good but in the wake of coronavirus people will be thinking about their wages and their jobs everything else should be put to one side and the parties that try and pursue pipe dreams in a time of emergency will stick out like a sore thumb. This could prove the perfect opportunity to shift the sands of Scottish politics.

The SNP seem more determined to gain a second independence referendum and if they gain seats in 2021 and win a majority, they may well get this. They will order the UK government and the prime minister to approve a section 30 order and claim they have a mandate from the people of Scotland. We must not allow this to happen and the only way to stop this is to vote for the only party that will defend the union. We had a “Once in a Generation” vote in 2014, where the majority of scots voted to remain part of the UK and we must leave it in the past and move on.