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Outsource election, says Tory leadership candidate

A candidate in the Scottish Tory leadership contest is calling for an outside body to be given full control of the election.

Jackson Carlaw believes Electoral Reform Services Ltd (ERS), rather than Conservative Central Office, should organise the internal poll. A source close to the Carlaw camp said involving ERS would ensure no allegations of “discrepancies” could be made after the result.

Although the fine detail of the contest has yet to be agreed, three candidates are expected to fight the election to succeed current leader Annabel Goldie.

Ruth Davidson, the newly elected Glasgow MSP, is considered to be a moderate who has support among the party establishment.

Murdo Fraser, currently Ms Goldie’s deputy, is a right-winger who advocates greater financial powers for Holyrood.

Mr Carlaw, an MSP for the West of Scotland, is also seen as being on the right but is sceptical of giving the Parliament additional responsibilities.

The Herald can reveal Mr Carlaw, the only confirmed candidate, recently contacted the Tory high command in Edinburgh about the election’s organisation. He made it clear he believes ERS, a body that provides election and ballot services, should have responsibility for the poll.

ERS has organised internal elections in the past for Labour, the SNP and the Conservatives.

A source in the Carlaw team said outsourcing the election would result in the new leader not being dogged by perceptions of “discrepancies allegedly taking place in the ballot”.

It is understood the party’s Scottish executive is considering the request.

The contest will be to elect a leader of the Scottish party, rather than for the Tory group at Holyrood.

A special constitutional conference in September will finalise details of the election, which will be followed by nominations. The party’s membership will then vote by post in a one-member-one-vote contest, with a winner to be announced on November 4.

A spokesman for the Scottish Tories said: “The Party Executive will set out the details of the leadership election and these will be issued in due course”.

Mr Carlaw declined to comment.

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