Ruth Davidson is planning to recruit a new wave of ‘high calibre’ Tory candidates ahead of the 2021 Holyrood elections, party sources have claimed.
The Scottish Conservative leader is reportedly eager to replace underperforming MSPs in her party and form a “government-in-waiting” ready to take on the SNP at the polls.
Party bosses hope to encourage new candidates from a variety of backgrounds to replace some of the intake at the last Scottish Parliament elections in 2016.
The SNP said the party was ‘reaching for the panic button’ after a recent poll found the Tories third on a list of voting intentions after the Nationalists and Labour.
“Strength in depth is an issue,” a Tory source told The Scottish Sun.
“Quite a few MSPs who came in in 2016 aren’t up to scratch. We need to be ready for government with high-calibre talent.
“There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes.”
Another source said: “There are high-flying people who are looking at Ruth, the direction we’re taking, and liking what they see. The challenge is to get them on board.
“We are on to something good here, but the challenge is to turn ourselves from the strong opposition to a government-in-waiting.”
A Scottish Conservatives spokesman said: “Last year we brought in fresh talent, including many people who had never before been involved in front-line politics.
“That’s an approach we intend to build on leading up to the general election in 2021.”
SNP MSP Sandra White claimed the Tories were ‘falling fast’ under Ruth Davidson.
She said: “It’s no surprise that the Tory hierarchy are reaching for the panic button.
“Clearly the Tories privately admit what everyone else knows – the more people see of Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives, the less they like them. However with Tory MSPs already unhappy with their leader’s failing performance it might be Ruth Davidson and not her MSPs who ends up as the lame duck.
“It doesn’t matter who stands for the Tories, changing the personnel won’t hide the fact that they are trying to force Scotland off an economic cliff-edge with their disastrous, chaotic approach to Brexit and punishing ordinary families with their right wing commitment to benefit cuts and the disaster that is universal credit. They should be worrying about the jobs and incomes of ordinary Scots not their own jobs.”