THE Scottish Conservatives will today announce their new full-time leader, almost six months after Ruth Davidson sensationally resigned.
Jackson Carlaw remains the favourite to win against Michelle Balllantyne after a frequently bad-tempered race.
Ms Ballantyne, 57, a South Scotland list MSP and her party’s social security spokesperson at Holyrood, has promoted herself as a “blue collar” conservative between jibes at Mr Carlaw.
She said the party had lacked “vision and ambition” and suffered from a “policy vacuum” when he led it through the general election and it lost seven of its 13 MSPs.
She also criticised the Scottish party’s relentless focus on stopping a second independence referendum in the election, a tactic which backfired when the SNP gained seats and claimed a renewed mandate for Indyref2.
The acrimony spilled into the public domain last month when Mr Jackson suggested Ms Balllanytne should drop out because no MSP or MP was supporting her.
“If I had the confidence of nobody at all, it would cause me to pause,” he said.
Ms Ballantyne retaliated over the “petty attacks” by accusing Mr Jackson’s camp of trying to undermine her with “secret recordings” and leaks to the press.
This was a reference to reports she told a members-only event that climate change could “benefit” Scotland, but a report about it was “being suppressed”.
Ms Ballantyne also played up her credentials as an early supporter of Brexit and of Boris Johnson, contrasting herself with Mr Carlaw, 60, who was a later convert to both.
Mr Carlaw, meanwhile, has spent recent weeks emphasising his experience and readiness to confront Nicola Sturgeon at the 2021 Holyrood election.
He has also said he would hold an “urgent review” into the party’s policy offer at the next election, hinting he is prepared to end its opposition to free university tuition.
The MSP for Eastwood, he has been interim leader since Ms Davidson resigned citing “conflict” over Brexit and a desire to spend more time with her young son, Finn.
She has since been tipped for a peerage, and said she is ready to move to the Lords.
The Scottish LibDems predicted whoever won would “kowtow” to the Prime Minister.
MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The result of this contest is essentially unimportant because we know the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives will simply kowtow to whatever agenda is put forward by Boris Johnson.
“Ruth Davidson couldn’t stomach it, and there are other like-minded conservatives who are horrified at this untrustworthy and power-hungry Prime Minister.
“Scotland doesn’t have to choose between the SNP and a cheerleader for Boris.
“We need to put the constitutional chaos behind us and focus on investing in education, rescuing our mental health services and tackling the climate emergency.”