Why Russell Findlay is tipped as the person to take over the Scottish Tories

Russell Findlay has been tipped to take over the Scottish Conservative leadership when Douglas Ross steps down after the general election.

Former journalist Russell Findlay is being lined up as a replacement for Douglas Ross as the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives – but we’re unlikely to hear much official movement on that front until after the general election.

Mr Ross’s shock announcement that he will leave his position as party leader following the July 4 election has left the door open to another of his MSPs to try and take the Tories forward and attempt to cling onto second place at Holyrood.

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Scottish Conservatives justice spokesman Russell FindlayScottish Conservatives justice spokesman Russell Findlay
Scottish Conservatives justice spokesman Russell Findlay

One senior party official told The Scotsman that Mr Findlay was seen as the "grassroots favourite" within the Scottish Conservative movement. Another said while “there won’t be much talk about who comes in next until after the election”, Mr Findlay was “certainly being talked about”.

Former Scottish Conservative media chief Andy Maciver has suggested Mr Findlay was being lined up as the “continuity candidate to succeed” Mr Ross, claiming he has “made a name for himself” and is “sharp and very able, with impeccable unionist credentials”.

Who is Russell Findlay?

Mr Findlay has only been a Tory MSP since 2021 – securing a place at Holyrood on the regional list for West Scotland. He is the party’s justice spokesperson and has been a strong voice on some of the most divisive issues discussed at Holyrood such as the Scottish Government’s Hate Crime Act and transgender prisoners.

Mr Findlay made a name for himself as a journalist and author, having previously worked for STV, the Scottish Sun and the Sunday Mail. An investigation he carried out into the disappearance of Margaret Fleming was used as evidence to help prosecute her killers.

In 2015, Mr Findlay was subjected to an acid attack on his doorstep. But Mr Findlay was able to hold off the attacker, William Burns, who had disguised himself as a postal worker, long enough for police to arrive. He was targeted due to his work exposing the dealings of criminal gangs in Glasgow

Before joining Holyrood as an MSP, Mr Findlay was the Scottish Conservatives’ director of communications from October 2020 until being elected as an MSP in May 2021.

One Scottish Conservative MSP said whoever fancied themselves as the next leader of the party "would be wise to keep their powder dry” as the Tories aim to hold onto their six Westminster seats in the general election – with the campaign the only current focus.

It is very evident the Scottish Conservatives do not have an obvious successor to Mr Ross. Whoever replaces Mr Ross as party leader will have the difficult task of taking the Tories into the 2026 Holyrood election. It is still two years out from that election, but all polling suggests the Tories are destined to slip into third place behind both the SNP and Labour.

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If Mr Findlay does become the next leader of the party, his immediate task will be to try and close the gap and give the Conservatives a fighting chance of remaining the official opposition at Holyrood.

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