Tory Jackson Carlaw insists ‘nothing to be afraid of’ in Nicola Sturgeon

By Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor

More than four decades after joining the Scottish Conservatives, Jackson Carlaw is running his first election campaign as party leader.

He first joined the party in 1978, and while he says the campaign experience is “different” now he is in charge, he says: “I have been enjoying doing it as leader.”

Like his predecessor Ruth Davidson – who he still sees every week and speaks to regularly – 60-year-old Mr Carlaw has focused the Tories’ campaign efforts on Scotland’s place in the UK.

And he insists that the Scottish Conservatives are the only party who can halt Nicola Sturgeon and her push for a second independence referendum.

“That has been a cornerstone of the campaign,” Mr Carlaw says.

He first stepped up as party leader in 2018, when Ms Davidson went on maternity leave, and was then called on to continue when she suddenly quit the job in August.

Under Ms Davidson, the Scottish Conservatives overtook Labour, to become the main party of opposition to the SNP north of the border.

Mr Carlaw refuses to say for the time being if he will seek the leader’s job on a more permanent basis.

Jackson Carlaw was previously depute leader to Ruth Davidson, and first tool on the leader’s job when she went on maternity leave (Danny Lawson/PA)

The Scottish Tories have put their leadership contest on hold while the party fights the general election campaign

“We would have had it already, but for Boris,” Mr Carlaw stated.

“If he hadn’t called the election we would have had the leadership election. So we will obviously get through Christmas, but I imagine the management board, whose responsibility it is, will set a timetable for an election in the early new year.”

And he added: “I’ll make clear what I would like to do after we have got the General Election out the way.”

The former car salesman did put himself forward for party leader in 2011 – but lost out to Ms Davidson, who was then a newly elected MSP.

Mr Carlaw, who has been an MSP since 2007 and who won the Eastwood constituency from Labour in 2016 – was quickly appointed as her deputy.

Having taken on the job of leader previously while Ms Davidson was on maternity leave, he said he “had the opportunity to understand what the job was going to be”.

He added: “That did allow me to understand the dynamic of Parliament and First Minister’s Questions, but I think much more crucially it confirmed to me that in Nicola Sturgeon there is nothing to be afraid of.

“A lot of people, particularly down south, I hear going on about how formidable she is, actually when you look at her record there is a lot there that is possible to take on, and I have really felt very confident doing that.”

Speaking about how he has “enjoyed” his first campaign in charge, the married father of two said: “Being leader gives you an opportunity to reach out across the whole of Scotland, rather than just the constituency you represent.

“And I love meeting people, particularly young people, and trying, seeking to persuade them.

“A lot of the candidates that are fighting for the Conservatives are younger than I am now – that wasn’t always the case – but I’m really proud of the effort they’ve been making.”

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