Carlaw drops Tory leadership rival Ballantyne in reshuffle

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Jackson CarlawImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Jackson Carlaw comfortably defeated Michelle Ballantyne in the Scottish Tory leadership contest

Jackson Carlaw has dropped his former leadership rival Michelle Ballantyne from his Scottish Conservative front bench team at Holyrood.

Mr Carlaw was announced as Ruth Davidson's replacement as party leader on Friday, defeating Ms Ballantyne.

He has now set out a new front bench team - with Ms Ballantyne's social security brief going to Graham Simpson.

Mr Carlaw said the group was "designed to take on the SNP" and to take the Scottish Conservatives into government.

The move comes the day after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reshuffled her cabinet, with Kate Forbes becoming finance secretary in the wake of Derek Mackay's resignation.

Mr Carlaw had been interim Scottish Tory leader since August 2019, when Ms Davidson stepped down citing personal and political changes in her life.

The leadership contest became bad-tempered, with the candidates trading insults ahead of the final result on 14 February - which saw Mr Carlaw win out by 4,917 votes to 1,581.

Ms Ballantyne accused Mr Carlaw of running a general election campaign in December that "lacked vision and ambition" and saw the party lose seven of its 13 seats north of the border.

Mr Carlaw hit back that the South Scotland MSP was the only member of the old front bench team who had never submitted "a single policy proposal".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Nicola Sturgeon pointed out that three quarters of Mr Carlaw's front bench team were men

Following the result, Ms Ballantyne said it was important the party "must come together" - but was absent from the new-look front bench team unveiled by Mr Carlaw at Holyrood on Tuesday. She has instead been nominated to be the convener of Holyrood's economy committee.

The social security portfolio she previously covered has been merged into housing and communities, and entrusted to Mr Simpson.

Meanwhile, Murdo Fraser has become the party's constitution spokesman, with Adam Tomkins moving to focus on "strategy". Jamie Greene will speak for the Tories on education, with Liz Smith moving from that role to be the group's chief whip.

Mr Carlaw has two deputies - Liam Kerr and Annie Wells. Mr Kerr will retain the justice portfolio, while Ms Wells will focus on the environment, climate change and the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The Eastwood MSP said: "It's simply not enough for us to be a strong and effective opposition anymore.

"We need to prove to the people of Scotland that we're a government in waiting, and that's exactly what I intend to do over the next 15 months."

Ms Sturgeon, meanwhile, drew attention to the fact that only three of the 13 MSPs in the Tory front bench team were female, while the majority of her cabinet are women.

She said: "With all the available evidence about the importance of diversity in decision making, having a 'shadow cabinet' that is 75% male is shockingly poor."