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Stop pussyfooting around leftist consensus in Scotland, says Kerr

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Stop pussyfooting around leftist consensus in Scotland, says Kerr

Current leader Douglas Ross resigned in the midst of the election campaign following an internal furore over his decision to stand in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East – a contest he would eventually lose – in the stead of former MP David Duguid, who was deemed by party bosses to be too ill.

But Stephen Kerr – who also failed to win the Angus and Perthshire Glens seat at last week’s vote – said Mr Ross’s replacement should oppose “shibboleths” within Scottish politics which “are unworkable in the long term” like university fees, medications and the single police force.

Douglas Ross
Mr Ross stood down during the election campaign (Michal Wachucik/PA)

“We need to challenge the consensus-thinking that many Scottish Conservatives have been too shy to oppose – issues such as free prescriptions to all, centralisation of our policing, minimum unit pricing for alcohol, and yes, even free tuition,” Mr Kerr wrote in the Telegraph on Tuesday.

“These have become shibboleths that the people who administer and use them know are unworkable in the long term, but we Conservatives haven’t dared to oppose.”

He added: “For Scottish Conservatives, the time for pussyfooting around the leftist consensus is past.

“People will want to hear what our policies are now that we are freed from opposition to independence being our main offering.

“I and the party will support a leader who can lead the discussion on centre-right policies and communicate them with conviction to an electorate who will be glad to hear a new song from the Scottish Conservatives.”

The Central Scotland MSP also called for Mr Ross to step aside to make way for an interim leader,  elected by MSPs, to take over for the duration of the contest.

“I have always admired Douglas Ross, whose commitment to his constituency was second to none,” he wrote.

“He resigned the leadership during the election campaign and should now step down in favour of an interim leader chosen by MSPs.”

The party should take its time in electing a new leader, Mr Kerr added, with the focus now on the Labour Government in Downing Street and the “doom spiral” of the SNP.

“There is no need to bounce the party into a quick coronation in time for the start of the new parliamentary session at Holyrood in September,” the Tory MSP said.

“It would be entirely counterproductive when the leadership contest itself presents us with an opportunity to discuss the future of our party in a way we haven’t in more than a decade.”

It is understood a formal decision on whether Mr Ross will remain on as leader until after the contest is yet to be taken.

His comments come as Liz Smith, the party’s finance spokeswoman and another senior MSP, told the same newspaper she believed former candidate Murdo Fraser would stand to replace Mr Ross.

Mr Fraser stood more than a decade ago but lost out to Ruth – now Baroness – Davidson, with the key pledge to separate the Scottish Tories from the party in the rest of the UK.

His push, Ms Smith predicted, would “be part of the mix” in the coming contest.

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