2020 Scottish Conservative Party leadership election

The 2020 Scottish Conservative Party leadership election will be the next internal party election to elect the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives, the second largest political party in the devolved Scottish Parliament. Ruth Davidson, who won the previous leadership election in 2011, resigned on 29 August 2019.

2020 Scottish Conservative Party leadership election

 2011 14 February 2020[1]
Candidate Michelle Ballantyne Jackson Carlaw

Incumbent Leader

Ruth Davidson
Jackson Carlaw (acting)

The leadership election was expected to take place in late 2019, but was delayed due to the 2019 United Kingdom general election. Jackson Carlaw served as interim leader and represented the Conservatives in the two Scottish televised debates during the election campaign.

The new leader will be announced on 14 February 2020.[2]


On 28 August 2019, the Scottish Sun reported that Ruth Davidson was 'on the verge of resigning' due to disagreements with the leader of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson, and the pressure with motherhood after giving birth to her first child in October 2018.[3] On the next day, Ruth Davidson confirmed her resignation and said she would remain as an MSP until 2021. At the same time, the deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Jackson Carlaw, who previously stood in for Davidson during her maternity leave, was announced as the interim leader of the party ahead of the leadership election.[4]

On 1 September, Adam Tomkins proposed that if he was ever to stand and be elected as leader, he might propose a new party to replace the Scottish Conservatives to create a pro-union alliance party made up of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats MSPs. However, he said that if Murdo Fraser stood, he wouldn't.

The Herald reported that a permanent leader might not be in office until 2020, citing divisions on Brexit and the possibility of an early UK general election. The UK Parliament subsequently legislated for a general election to be held on 12 December 2019, which delayed the Scottish Conservative leadership election until early 2020.[5] Carlaw served as interim leader during the election campaign, and represented the party during both of the Scottish television debates.[5][6] In the 2019 general election the Conservatives won six seats in Scotland, losing seven of the 13 they had won in 2017.[7]

This loss in Scotland contrasted with a strong performance in England and Wales, which meant that the party won an overall majority of 80.[7]. There was a growing fear that following what had been a surprisingly good result for the Conservative Party, Jackson Carlaw would be elected leader with no opposition.

Many senior Conservatives felt that with Holyrood elections coming up it would be better to avoid a contest and focus on uniting against the SNP.[8]


Michelle Ballantyne announced her candidacy and was soon followed by Jackson Carlaw. Carlaw gained create support early on from all of his Frontbenchers and many of his backbenchers including former leader Ruth Davidson. Ballantyne failed to get high level endorsements with only former MP Ross Thomson offering his support.

Jackson Carlaw launched his campaign on 15 January 2020, focusing on the forthcoming Scottish Parliament elections in 2021 and the next council elections in 2022, Jackson Carlaw built his campaign on wanting to spend the next eighteen months leading up to the elections at the Scottish Parliament to take down Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party in the process.

Jackson's comments regarding taking down Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party in the next eighteen months as well as his references to I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers to get there, were widely mocked by opponents and columnists in the media.

The first hustings of the campaign took place in Glasgow on 24 January 2020.



Candidate Born Political office Campaign Ref.

Michelle Ballantyne
28 November 1962
(age 57)
Social security spokesperson (since 2018)
MSP for South Scotland (since 2017)


Jackson Carlaw
12 April 1959
(age 60)
Acting leader of the Scottish Conservatives (since 2019)
MSP for Eastwood (since 2016)
MSP for West Scotland (2007–2016)




Jackson Carlaw

Michelle Ballantyne

Timeline of events


  • 29 August – Ruth Davidson announces her resignation as Scottish Conservative leader.
  • 1 September – Adam Tomkins states that he would not stand for leadership if Murdo Fraser stands.[22]
  • 8 September – A new campaign, Scottish Conservatives Together, is set up in response to oppose an independent Scottish Conservative party. The campaign has hinted the possibility of Murdo Fraser or Adam Tomkins running for leader as they have advocated for a split in the party.
  • 14 October – The Scottish Conservatives begin the process of selecting a permanent leader.
  • 12 December – The Scottish Conservatives stand in the 2019 general election under the leadership of Jackson Carlaw with the election resulting in the party losing seven out of the thirteen seats won in the 2017 election under the leadership of Ruth Davidson.


See also


  1. Conservatives, Scottish (2019-08-29). "Scottish Conservative leader to be announced on 14 February". @scottories. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  2. Conservatives, Scottish (2020-01-17). "Nominations have closed in the Scottish Conservative leadership contest. @MBallantyneMSP and @Jackson_Carlaw will go forward to the ballot of members with the result being announced on the 14th of February.pic.twitter.com/d0WryJjDoK". @ScotTories. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  3. "Scottish Tory leader 'on verge of quitting'". BBC News. 2019-08-29. Retrieved 2019-08-29.
  4. Taylor, Brian (3 October 2019). "How long will Jackson Carlaw remain interim Scottish Conservative leader?". BBC News. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  5. Johnson, Simon (11 December 2019). "Ruth Davidson endorses Jackson Carlaw for Scottish Tory leadership". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  6. "Election 2019: Scottish party leaders clash in debate". BBC News. 3 December 2019. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  7. "SNP wins election landslide in Scotland". 2019-12-13. Retrieved 2019-12-28.
  8. Johnson, Simon (3 January 2020). "Scottish Tory MSP Michelle Ballantyne to stand for party leadership to ensure contest, not coronation". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  9. Carlaw, Jackson (2020-01-05). "Scottish Conservatives must build on our progress and offer alternatives". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  10. https://twitter.com/MilesBriggsMSP/status/1214127168139284480
  11. "Ballantyne in hunt for 100 nominations". www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk. Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  12. https://twitter.com/murdo_fraser/status/1213752799466545152
  13. https://twitter.com/deanlockhartmsp?lang=en
  14. https://twitter.com/MspLiz/status/1213748256146153472
  15. https://twitter.com/ProfTomkins/status/1214122307951714305
  16. https://twitter.com/brianwhittle?lang=en
  17. "Scottish Tories likely to be without a new leader until 2020". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2019-08-30.
  18. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/06/frontrunner-jackson-carlaw-confirms-standing-scottish-tory-leadership/
  19. https://twitter.com/Rachael2Win/status/1214124822453739521
  20. https://twitter.com/IanDuncanHMG/status/1214219608510607360
  21. https://twitter.com/RossThomson_Abz/status/1214562822127964161
  22. Boothman, John (2019-09-01). "Boost for Fraser in bid to replace Davidson". The Sunday Times. ISSN 0956-1382. Retrieved 2019-09-01.
  23. https://twitter.com/Jackson_Carlaw/status/1214121238681051136
  24. https://twitter.com/ChrisGreenNews/status/1213786589148667905?s=19
  25. https://twitter.com/BBCandrewkerr/status/1217134724713537542
  26. {{Cite web|url=https://twitter.com/ScotTories/status/1218214754919034881?s=19%7Ctitle=Nominations have closed in the Scottish Conservative leadership contest.