Scotland politics

Tory leadership: Ruth Davidson backs Theresa May

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Media captionRuth Davidson said Mrs May had the "steel for the job" of party leader and prime minister

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives has said she will be backing Theresa May as the next Tory leader and UK prime minister.

Ruth Davidson said Mrs May had the skills required to "unite both the country and the party".

Mrs May will face Andrea Leadsom in a head-to-head ballot of about 150,000 Conservative members, with the result due on 9 September.

The winner will become the UK's second female prime minister.

After a second MPs' ballot was held on Thursday, Home Secretary Mrs May finished with 199 votes, Energy Minister Mrs Leadsom received 84 and Michael Gove, the justice secretary, had 46.

Mr Gove has now been eliminated from the contest, with party members having to choose between Mrs May and Mrs Leadsom.

The two candidates were on opposing sides ahead of the EU referendum, with Mrs May - like Ms Davidson - backing Remain, while Mrs Leadsom was a prominent figure in the victorious Leave campaign.

Ms Davidson told the BBC's Newsnight programme that Mrs May had the "vast majority" of the parliamentary party behind her, and had "huge support" in all parts of the UK, including among the Scottish Conservatives.

She paid tribute to Mrs Leadsom's "guts" in putting her name forward for leader, and said she hoped the leadership contest would see a "big, broad debate" being held across the country.

But Ms Davidson said: "I think it has got to be someone who can unite both the country and the party, and I think Theresa May is the only one who can do that."

She said Mrs May, who was state educated, wanted to ensure that "government is for everyone in this country" and not just "those privileged few".

Image caption Andrea Leadson was on the opposite side of the EU debate from Mrs May and Ms Davidson
Image copyright PA
Image caption All three of Scotland's largest political parties are currently led by women

Ms Davidson added: "In terms of the person that's got the steel for the job, that can go eyeball to eyeball with Angela Merkel and Nicola Sturgeon, it can only be Theresa May.

"I know that any time I wanted to call on her before the independence referendum to come up, whether that was to make speeches, to talk to some of Scotland's female businesswomen and entrepreneurs, to raise money, she was there in a heartbeat.

"She has got a huge capacity for work, she has got all the leadership skills, she can see the way other people have looked at the Tory party and not like what they've seen, and they know the way in which she wants to change the party so that it is a party for everybody, not just a party for one section of society."

But Ms Davidson called for Mrs May to guarantee that European Union migrants in the UK should be allowed to remain after Brexit.

Led by women

Conservative MP Tim Loughton, Mrs Leadsom's campaign manager, said she would bring a "huge and fresh skills base" to Downing Street if elected.

He played down her lack of cabinet experience, saying she would have "no problem stepping up to the job" having had a long career outside politics, adding: "She has done things outside of this place on so many different levels."

It will be only be the second time the Conservative Party has been led by a woman - with the first being Margaret Thatcher, who is also currently the only woman to have served as UK prime minister.

Labour has never had a female leader, although Margaret Beckett and Harriet Harman have both served as acting leaders of the party.

But in Scotland, the three largest parties - SNP, Conservatives and Labour - are all currently led by women.