Balloting begins in Scottish Tory leadership contest

Murdo Fraser, Ruth Davidson, Jackson Carlaw and Margaret Mitchell The four candidates are Murdo Fraser, Ruth Davidson, Jackson Carlaw and Margaret Mitchell

Balloting has begun in the contest to elect a new leader of the Scottish Conservative party.

Postal ballot papers are being sent to more than 8,000 party members who are entitled to vote.

Four MSP candidates - Jackson Carlaw, Ruth Davidson, Margaret Mitchell and the party's current deputy leader Murdo Fraser - are vying to replace Annabel Goldie.

The result will be announced on 4 November.

Tory members will be choosing a leader for the entire party in Scotland, not just at Holyrood.

One of the candidates, Murdo Fraser, has said he wants to create a new centre-right party to replace the existing set-up.

Speaking ahead of the ballot papers being released, he said: "Our members are fed up of fighting and fed up of losing. So am I.

"My message to them is simple: this is your chance - your one chance - to save the centre-right movement in Scotland and turn us from a party which loses all the time into one which starts to win."

Ruth Davidson, a newly elected Glasgow list MSP, said she believed fresh policy thinking and hard work could result in success.

Analysis

Even if Murdo Fraser wins, his proposal for a new party would have to win the support of two thirds of the members at a specially constituted conference.

Say he wins - and cannot gain the requisite support for his proposal.

He would then be left leading a party which he has said "cannot succeed in its current form".

A dilemma which would require some finesse.

She said: "I am hugely encouraged by the reception I have received from those members at the coalface who share my absolute belief that with the right kind of change the Scottish Conservatives can become a formidable force in Scottish politics and Scottish life once again.

"They share my belief that this is a real, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build, not to destroy."

Jackson Carlaw said he offers the necessary maturity and experience.

"We cannot unite the party by dividing it as those, who believe that the answer to all our problems is to disband, disown our heritage, trash our achievements and say we can never win again, have chosen to do in this campaign, " he said.

"Nor is the answer to opt for someone who is completely untested, has no experience and, it would appear, no real message other than one of being the 'new kid on the block'."

The fourth candidate, Margaret Mitchell, has stressed her commitment to Unionism and her opposition to new Holyrood tax powers.

Party members will rank candidates in order of preference, with votes redistributed if there is no clear winner from the first count.

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