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Jackson Carlaw under attack for the lack of women in his reshuffled frontbench team

Jackson Carlaw couldn't resist sacking his leadership rival Michelle Ballantyne.
Jackson Carlaw couldn't resist sacking his leadership rival Michelle Ballantyne.

Jackson Carlaw tried to look to the future when he reshuffled his Tory team.

But he was unable to resist the temptation to indulge in an old-fashioned sacking. And he found himself very much behind the times when it came to the gender balance of his top team.

His talk of his new team selling the Union to coming generations of Scots and delivering a brand-new package of policies ended up being somewhat overshadowed.

Firstly, there was the unceremonious ditching of his rival for the leadership Michelle Ballantyne, who found herself dumped as frontbench spokeswoman on social security.

Secondly, there was the fact that Ms Ballantyne’s departure contributed to the newly appointed Scottish Conservative leader unveiling a shadow cabinet of which only three of its 13 members were women.

“In this day and age – and with all the available evidence about the importance of diversity in decision making – having a ‘Shadow Cabinet’ that is 75% male is shockingly poor,” tweeted Nicola Sturgeon.


Mr Carlaw attempted to dismiss such concerns, describing them as “ridiculous”.

“I have only got seven women MSPs, two of whom are not standing again next year,” Mr Carlaw protested, while pointing out that Annie Wells had been made one of his two deputy leaders and Rachael Hamilton was party chairwoman.

I am determined that after 2021 the Scottish Conservative Party will be the most representative of Scotland in all its minorities.”

Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Tory leader

Improving gender balance and increasing minority representation appeared to be works in progress.

“The important thing is how many women are we going to have here after 2021 and how many Asian and other minority representatives we are going to have in our group,” Mr Carlaw said.

“I am determined that after 2021 the Scottish Conservative Party will be the most representative of Scotland in all its minorities.”

Urgent policy review for Scottish Conservatives

Resetting Conservative policy will not, however, wait until 2021. Mr Carlaw saw his task as getting his reshuffled team to bring a “fresh energy” to the Tories.

An urgent policy review is under way with results expected by Easter. On the agenda is higher education funding with signs that Mr Carlaw may abandon his party’s long-standing objection to free tuition for undergraduates.

Also under consideration will be policies to assist young people getting on to the property ladder, an initiative that will fall to Graham Simpson, Mr Carlaw’s new housing spokesman who has also taken over Ms Ballantyne’s social security brief.

As well as being ditched from the front benches, Ms Ballantyne missed out on a junior position. Instead she will be put forward as Holyrood’s economy committee convener subject to parliamentary approval.

Her dismissal came after a fractious leadership battle during which she criticised the General Election campaign run by Mr Carlaw for lacking vision. In turn, Mr Carlaw claimed Ms Ballantyne was the one Tory MSP who had never come up with a single policy proposal.

Professor Adam Tomkins has become the shadow cabinet secretary for strategy, a new position that gives him responsibility for writing the 2021 manifesto.

Highland MSP Donald Cameron takes over responsibility for finance, where he will shadow the SNP’s Kate Forbes.

Murdo Fraser moves from finance to the constitution. Hotelier Rachel Hamilton has rural economy added to her tourism brief. North-east farmer Peter Chapman is no longer in the Shadow Cabinet, but takes the junior position in Ms Hamilton’s portfolio.

After many years as front bench education spokeswoman Liz Smith, a former teacher, becomes chief whip, a position which has been elevated to shadow cabinet status.

Former transport spokesman Jamie Greene takes over at education with Jamie Halcro-Johnston assisting him.

Miles Briggs remains health spokesman, with former Olympic athlete Brian Whittle taking the junior health position.

As well as serving as a deputy leader alongside Liam Kerr, Annie Wells has lead responsibility for climate change and the COP 26 where she will be helped by Finlay Carson.

Mr Kerr stays as justice spokesman and Maurice Golden becomes economy spokesman. Dean Lockhart is reappointed business spokesman, with Gordon Lindhurst in the junior position.

Ruth Davidson: no place for the former Tory leader in Jackson Carlaw’s Shadow Cabinet

Notable by her absence was Mr Carlaw’s predecessor Ruth Davidson, who is quitting Holyrood next year and has been tipped for a place in the House of Lords.

Mr Carlaw said he had “long conversations” with her and she was “quite content” with her current position as the Tory’s representative on the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body.

Asked whether he had offered her a frontbench role, he said: “I’ve had the discussion with her and it’s not something she’s looking for.”

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