A SCOTTISH Tory MP has said Environment Secretary Michael Gove has the qualities to become the next Prime Minister, amid growing speculation Theresa May will stand down in the next few weeks.

Stephen Kerr said Gove, a Scot, had the “vision” and “ideas” to become the next Conservative leader, adding that a majority of his colleagues north of the border would feel a “natural pull” towards him.

With the Tories expecting to be routed at this week’s European election, May will come under pressure to set a timetable for her departure from Downing Street.

She intends to bring back her draft Brexit withdrawal agreement to the House of Commons, but there is no sign it will be approved and Tory MPs want her to go quickly.

In any ensuing contest, Conservative MPs will whittle down the candidates to a shortlist of two, after which the final decision will be made by party members.

An opinion poll published yesterday showed that former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is the grassroots favourite, while fellow Brexiteer Gove was in third place.

The duo worked closely together during the EU referendum campaign, but fell out spectacularly after David Cameron resigned. Gove initially backed Johnson to be leader in 2016, but withdrew support and stood himself.

Kerr, the MP for Stirling, told this newspaper: “I believe Michael combines a lot of personal and leadership qualities with a lot of experience.

“If you think about his track record in Government wherever he has gone, he has made something happen. There’s no question that when he moves into a Government department, there is an agenda that emerges and he manages to marshal the resources to deliver those policies. That’s not true of all Ministers.”

He said Gove, who was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Aberdeen, also cared passionately about Scotland’s place in the UK.

“Intuitively, because he is a Scot, he understands the issues surrounding the Union. He also recognises the fact that being a Unionist is not a passive description, it has to be about making the Union work. He gets that.

“It’s not just a case of upholding the Union, or preserving the Union, he would be about strengthening the Union.”

He said of his Scottish colleagues: “I do think the majority of my colleagues will feel a natural pull to support Michael, not just because he is a Scot, but because he understands the Union.”

Kerr said that Gove “upset” the hard Brexiteers by not resigning in protest over May’s deal, but claimed he has broad appeal across the party: “He can bridge the breadth of the church. He can appeal to people in all parts, apart from those with intractable positions.”

The MP conceded that the previous clash with Johnson would “undoubtedly” be an issue for some Conservatives, but he said:

“He is a unifier. He is articulate. He has vision and ideas. He is able to translate those ideas into actual policies. I think he would be a very pragmatic leader.”

Gove visited Kerr’s constituency at the weekend to meet farmers and other industry figures. He also spoke at a meeting of the MP’s local party.

A YouGov survey for The Times of party members - who will have the final say in the contest - put Johnson on 39%, while former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab trailed on 13%.

Of the others, Gove and Home Secretary Sajid Javid were on 9%, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on 8%.