Ian Swanson: Who will take the vacant leadership roles of the opposition parties

Wanted: Leaders for Scotland's three main opposition parties. Ian Swanson looks at some possible candidates.

IT didn't take long. Within days of the SNP's unprecedented triumph at last week's Holyrood elections, the leaders of all three main opposition parties had announced they were quitting.

Now Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats must all find someone new to put up against Alex Salmond and rebuild their parties before the next Scottish Parliament elections in five years' time.

Labour's Iain Gray announced on Friday that he would step down in the autumn after his group of MSPs fell from 46 to 37. The East Lothian MSP was constantly portrayed as colourless and lacking in charisma, despite his adventurous past as a teacher in Mozambique and an Oxfam worker visiting world troublespots. The party's depleted numbers mean the search for a successor is somewhat constrained.

The Liberal Democrats' leader Tavish Scott quit on Saturday with immediate effect, even though everyone recognises the party's disastrous showing was largely due to events at Westminster. They also have a limited pool from which to draw - their MSPs were cut from 16 to just five. Insiders say Willie Rennie, newly elected to Holyrood but with experience as an MP and the party's top official, is likely to emerge as the sole candidate.

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie took most people by surprise with her announcement on Monday that she, too, will go in the autumn. A contest was already being planned for the new post of overall leader of the party - rather than having the role split between a chairman, the leader of the MSPs and an MP at Westminster. Despite insisting earlier that she planned to carry on, Miss Goldie decided she did not want to stand.

The Tories have two fewer MSPs now than before the election and they failed to win a couple of seats which boundary changes meant should have been theirs. But, as Mr Salmond observed, had it not been for Miss Goldie's feisty campaign they would probably have lost even more heavily.

There's no definitive list of contenders for any of the vacancies yet, but would-be leaders will be limbering up for the battle ahead.

Possible candidates


Ken Macintosh

Former deputy education spokesman

Age 49


Educated at Royal High School and Edinburgh University. The former TV producer and father of six has been an MSP since 1999. Nearly entered the 2008 leadership contest but changed his mind.


Got a Bill passed to clamp down on Tommy Sheridan . . . sorry, sunbed parlours.


Held on to Eastwood despite Tory hopes, then was an affable hit on TV the next morning.

Sarah Boyack

Lothians MSP, former environment minister

Age 49


Another former Royal High pupil, she was a town planner before being elected MSP for Edinburgh Central in 1999 - and catapulted into Donald Dewar's Cabinet.


Green in more way than one at first as transport and environment minister, she introduced free travel for over-60s. Lost Edinburgh Central seat in last week's SNP election tsunami.


Widely respected, sensible, strong green credentials. A hit with the cyclist vote.

Johann Lamont

Deputy leader since 2008

Age 53


After teaching for 20 years, she became a Glasgow MSP at the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999 and has held junior ministerial posts.


Won deputy leadership election in 2008 by 60-40 against fellow Glasgow MSP Bill Butler.


Dour but passionate.

Jackie Baillie

Former health spokeswoman

Age 47


An MSP since the start of devolution and a former minister.

She won unanimous support for her Bill in 2009 to promote disabled parking spaces. Right-hand woman to Wendy Alexander when she was leader . . . at first.


Combative in the chamber, charming in person, she led opposition to minimum alcohol pricing.


Big image problem.

Lib Dems

Willie Rennie

Newly-elected MSP for Mid-Scotland & Fife

Age 43


Former Scottish Lib Dem chief executive, then chief of staff in the Scottish Parliament. Won 2006 Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, but lost the seat again last year. Briefly special adviser at the Scotland Office.


Runner-up in the 2006 Scottish Coal-Carrying Championships held in his home town of Kelty.


After the Lib Dems' election disaster, he's likely to be the only would-be leader on offer.


Gavin Brown

Lothians list MSP since 2007

Age 35


Former head boy at Fettes, ex-world champion debater, worked as a lawyer, then set up his own speaking skills training company. Seen as a rising star when he entered parliament.


Black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Long-distance running.

A fondness for giving guests muffins - he claimed for 67 in one year.


"New generation" candidate.

Elizabeth Smith

Former education spokeswoman

Age 51


Former economics teacher at George Watson's College, wrote a book on Communism used for Sixth Year Studies in schools, plays cricket.

Worked as an aide to Sir Malcolm Rifkind.


Respected across the parties for her contributions on education.


Dubbed "Annabel Goldie without the humour".

Murdo Fraser

Deputy leader since 2005

Age 45


A former chairman of the Scottish Young Conservatives, then the first Scot to be elected chairman of National Young Conservatives. He was a lawyer before becoming an MSP in 2001.


Took on former Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth in a conference fringe debate on more powers for Holyrood, but lost the vote among activists.


Thatcherite past may not help him win over the Scottish electorate.

Jackson Carlaw

Former transport spokesman

Age 52


Former car salesman, he became a West of Scotland list MSP in 2007. Failed to win Eastwood in last week's election, although it should have been an easy Tory victory.


Has called for MSPs to work longer hours at Holyrood to give taxpayers better value.


It's the inevitable question: would you buy a used car from this man?