Ruth Davidson elected new Scottish Conservative leader

Ruth Davidson tells the BBC that she offers "the generational change that our party has been looking for"

Newly elected MSP Ruth Davidson has been announced as the new leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

The 32-year-old beat off competition from the party's deputy leader, Murdo Fraser, who was seen as the front runner in the contest.

Mr Fraser had wanted to abolish the Scottish Conservatives in favour of a new centre-right party.

Ms Davidson was elected in a ballot of 8,000 Scottish party members, which has taken place during the past few weeks.

Two other Tory MSPs, Jackson Carlaw and Margaret Mitchell, also stood for the leadership.

Ms Davidson, a former BBC journalist who was first elected as a Glasgow MSP in the May Holyrood election, will now lead the entire party in Scotland, not just the Conservative MSP group.

She replaces Annabel Goldie, who has led the party since 2005, but decided to step aside in the wake of the SNP's landslide election win and the last UK election, during which the Conservatives returned only one Scottish MP.

In her victory address, Ms Davidson said Scottish Conservatism was "alive and kicking".

Analysis

As a 32-year-old, newly elected, openly gay Tory MSP, Ruth Davidson was often described as the fresh-faced, new generation of the Scottish Conservative Party.

But, compared with Murdo Fraser's radical plans for the party, Ms Davidson almost seemed more of a status quo candidate.

Not only does the former BBC journalist oppose further new powers for Holyrood, describing those to be delivered through the Scotland Bill as "a line in the sand", but she has also mounted a vigorous campaign against the notion of a new party to replace the Scots Tories.

It was the Ruth Davidson campaign which facilitated a statement by major party donor Sir Jack Harvie, of the Focus on Scotland group, in which he refused to bankroll a breakaway party.

Ms Davidson, who only became a Glasgow list MSP in May, said the leadership campaign became distracted by the debate over disbanding and rebranding the Scottish Conservatives, arguing that real change only comes from asking people what matters to them.

It seems that's what party members thought too.

And what of Murdo Fraser? He's regarded as a skilled politician. But, given his insistence that the Scottish Conservative brand is dead, will he really feel he can fit back into the party - and will they want him?

She said: "Annabel has been a fantastic leader of the MSP group and we all owe her a great debt for her service and for her hard work over a number of years.

"But this is the first time that our members have been asked to elect a leader for the whole party in Scotland and I've met our members from Selkirk to Shetland and all points in between.

"They've been engaged, they've been enthusiastic, they've been welcoming and they're excited about our bright future too."

Ms Davidson added: "A political party is not a leader, a political party is its membership and I want to bring our members at all levels much closer together in our party going forward and to take our party forward in unity."

Ms Davidson pledged to overhaul the party machinery in Scotland and bring new, modern and relevant policies to the people of Scotland.

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed his party's new leader in Scotland.

He said: "I am delighted to congratulate Ruth on winning this leadership election and look forward to working with her to strengthen the Union and build a better future for Scotland."

Ms Goldie said the election marked a key point in the history of the party and a crucial point in Scottish politics.

Congratulating Ms Davidson, she said: "We have a big obligation to our own party but we have an even bigger one to the Scottish public. I wish Ruth every success in taking the Scottish Conservatives forward.

"The future is exciting, I promise her that I shall not be a back seat driver and I am confident that she is more than equal to taking on Alex Salmond."

Following the result, Mr Fraser said: "Clearly I'm disappointed that I was not able to persuade more of our members that my vision for the future is the correct one.

"But I congratulate Ruth Davidson on her victory, and she will have my full support, as she tries to take the party forward."

Mr Fraser secured 2,096 first preference votes against Ms Davidson's 2,278. With second preference votes counted, Ms Davidson won by 2,983 votes to 2,417.

There were 5,676 votes cast in a turnout of 63.4%.

'Big task'

First minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond said: "Congratulations to Ruth Davidson on her success, and I wish her well. My own view is that Annabel Goldie was a highly successful leader for the Conservatives in Scotland, and maximised the Tory vote here.

"That merely underlines the scale of the task for Ruth Davidson in motivating her party - as does the number of Scottish Tory members who actually voted in this contest, and the fact that her main opponent proposed winding up the party."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said that following in Ms Goldie's footsteps would be a big task for Ms Davidson.

"While I disagree with her fundamentally on politics I look forward to the contribution she will make to the Scottish Parliament," he added.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "I am really pleased to congratulate Ruth on her new appointment as leader of the Scottish Conservatives. I look forward to working with her, in her new role, as we strive to hold the SNP government to account."

Ms Davidson campaigned with a pledge to fight further new powers for Scotland.

She said the Scotland Bill to increase Holyrood's financial responsibility, currently going through Westminster, was "a line in the sand" and strongly opposed Mr Fraser's vision for a new party.

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