Fraser bids to become Scottish Tory leader

Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser has called for “renewal and change” in the party, as he announced his candidacy in contest to replace Annabel Goldie as leader.

The 45-year-old immediately won the backing of party housing spokesman Alex Johnstone, who said Mr Fraser will lead a party that “fills a gap” in Scottish politics.

Mr Fraser followed Jackson Carlaw in becoming the second MSP to declare he will compete for the role.

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It comes after Miss Goldie announced she would be stepping down in the aftermath of the party’s election defeat in May.

Mr Fraser, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, will formally launch his campaign next month.

He said: “I have been encouraged by parliamentary colleagues, senior councillors and many party volunteers to put my name forward as a candidate for leader.

“I’m very much looking forward to a debate about the future direction of our party.

“We are still a long way from being a real force in Scottish politics. In order to become one we require renewal and change.”

The former lawyer will outline his proposals for the future of the party with a formal launch in Edinburgh on Monday 5 September.

Mr Johnstone, MSP for the North East, said he had encouraged Mr Fraser to run the last time when Miss Goldie took on her second stint in the post.

He added: “I’m delighted that Murdo has put his name forward. I believe that the party in Scotland needs to be progressive and establish a direction forward. He will lead a party that identifies with Scottishness and the centre right and that will fill a gap in politics.”

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West of Scotland MSP Mr Carlaw was the first to announce he would stand earlier this month.

Ruth Davidson, elected as an MSP at the May elections, has also been touted as a possible candidate for the contest and is expected to announce her candidacy after parliament returns after the Summer break in September.

Leading backbench Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell recently called for party grandee Lord Forsyth to return to lead the party in Scotland, but he is not believed to be interested in the role.

A special conference is to be held in September when the recommendations into the future of the party will be ratified by the party. The formal leadership contest will get underway after this with a new leader expected to be in place by early November.

The central recommendation of the Sanderson review was the election of a distinct leader, with full responsibility for the Scottish party, which is currently led by Miss Goldie.

It recommended future leaders should be elected by all party members – and would not have to be an MSP to be eligible. Leaders should also be re-elected every four years.

Miss Goldie had said she would continue as leader until a likely election to find a replacement was held later this year.

At the time, she said: “I believe that the time has come for the torch to pass.

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“There are four years until the next UK general election, and five years until the next Holyrood contest. I want my successor to have the maximum time for him or her to shape the party and its policies, and to lead the opposition at Holyrood.”