Jackson Carlaw: From one-time car salesman to party leader

By Philip Sim
BBC political staff

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
It was only in February this year that Jackson Carlaw took on the leader role permanently

Jackson Carlaw has abruptly resigned as Scottish Tory leader just six months after winning the job. Who is the Eastwood MSP, and what lies behind his resignation?

Raised in Newton Mearns in East Renfrewshire, Mr Carlaw worked as a car salesman for 25 years before his election to the Scottish Parliament.

A longstanding member of the Conservatives, he stood unsuccessfully for the party in the 1982 Queens Park by-election and then the 1983 general election in Glasgow Pollock.

He held a range of positions with the party, including chairing the Scottish Young Conservatives and the Eastwood branch of the party, as well as having two spells as deputy chairman of the Scottish party.

Following the establishment of the current Scottish Parliament in 1999, Mr Carlaw stood unsuccessfully as the Tory candidate for Eastwood in 2003, 2007 and 2011, with the seat held each time by Labour's Ken Macintosh.

However, in 2007 he entered Holyrood via the West of Scotland list, serving two terms as a regional MSP before finally unseating Mr Macintosh in 2016.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Mr Carlaw never shied away from dressing up for "wear it pink" breast cancer awareness events at Holyrood

Mr Carlaw, who is married with two children, served as Tory health spokesman at Holyrood for almost nine years, and sat on Holyrood's Europe committee.

He was a vocal campaigner for women who suffered complications from mesh surgery, and was an enthusiastic participant in "wear it pink" breast cancer awareness photocalls at Holyrood.

When Annabel Goldie resigned as Scottish Conservative leader in 2011, Mr Carlaw stood as a candidate to replace her.

He ultimately finished third, behind Ruth Davidson and Murdo Fraser, but was subsequently appointed as Ms Davidson's deputy.

This saw him step up as acting leader when she went on maternity leave between September 2018 and May 2019, and again when she resigned from the top job that August.

Mr Carlaw was the clear favourite to take the job full time, but was thrust into another leadership contest when Michelle Ballantyne said she would stand too to prevent a "coronation".

The 61-year-old said he wanted the party to appear to "middle Scotland", with policies focused on education and tax cuts, and said he was aiming to "take down" Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

Media caption,
Jackson Carlaw: "A fresh face is the right person to lead us into that [May 2021] election."

Mr Carlaw made it very clear that he thought he was the man for the job - and when he won comfortably, he trumpeted his share of the vote as being bigger than that achieved by Boris Johnson, David Cameron or Ruth Davidson.

He said he had a "clear mandate from the party in Scotland" to make changes and to lead them into the 2021 Holyrood elections.

However, just six months later, Mr Carlaw appears to have had a change of heart.

He now says that he is "not, in the present circumstances, the person best placed" to lead the party or the defence of the UK union.

He said: "I simply believe that a new leader will be able, as we recover from the Covid emergency, to make the case for the Scottish Conservatives and the Union better than me. That is all that matters."

Image source, Jackson Carlaw twitter
Image caption,
Mr Carlaw did not back Boris Johnson in the Tory leadership contest, but has since defended the prime minister

Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised Mr Carlaw as a "tremendous servant" to the Scottish Tories, but the two have not always seen eye to eye.

Mr Carlaw campaigned for Remain in the 2016 EU referendum - although he embraced Brexit after the result - and backed Mr Johnson's leadership rival Jeremy Hunt in the UK Tory leadership contest.

And in May the Scottish Tory leader called for Mr Johnson's senior advisor Dominic Cummings to resign after he travelled to County Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.

However the two did meet when Mr Johnson visited Scotland on 23 July, with the Scottish Tory leader praising the prime minister as being "resolute on our United Kingdom".

Also present at that meeting was Moray MP Douglas Ross - who many have tipped as the most likely candidate to replace Mr Carlaw as leader.