THE Scottish Tories are unlikely to have a new leader until next year, it has emerged.

The party’s management board met last night for an initial discussion on the rules and timing of the search to replace Ruth Davidson.

However the contest is not expected to begin in earnest until Holyrood’s mid-October recess at the earliest.

A senior source said current events at Westminster, with arguments over Brexit and the possibility of a general election, made for the “wrong immediate landscape for a contest”, and so the choice of Ms Davidson’s successor was likely to be “later rather than sooner”.

Another said Brexit would “unfairly cloud any contest” and it would make sense for the party to play it long.

With the Christmas break also a factor, the winner is not expected until the New Year.

In 2011, when Ms Davidson became leader, the election process lasted four months from declarations of interest in August until the result was declared in November.

A similar period this time would put the outcome well into the spring, with the party’s spring conference a natural point for an announcement.

A prolonged contest could favour Jackson Carlaw, who was Ms Davidson’s deputy and now becomes interim leader, as it would give him ample time to audition for the lead role.

When Ms Davidson took six months’ maternity leave, he more than held his own against Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions.

Besides an acerbic wit, he was a better prosecutor than Ms Davidson, showing a forensic skill that might be invaluable in the fall-out from Alex Salmond’s criminal trial.

READ MORE: Scottish Conservatives to start search for successor to Ruth Davidson

In an interview with The Herald on Sunday last year, Mr Carlaw, who stood for the leadership in 2011, appeared to rule out standing again.

Asked if he would run if Ms Davidson decamped to Westminster, he said: “No. I’m at the beginning of the dinosaur end of political life. I share that with the First Minister.”

But he has conspicuously not ruled himself out this week.

With barely a year between the Scottish leader being installed and the next Holyrood election, it would make sense for the party to pick a seasoned performer rather than hope a rookie finds their feet before polling day.

However Mr Jackson’s Eastwood seat is one of the most intensely Remain parts of Scotland, and he shares his constituents’ sentiments, making him a bad fit for the Boris Johnson era.

If the UK Government pressed ahead with a no-deal Brexit, Mr Jackson would struggle to defend it, and would risk losing his seat if he did, which would be a terrible look for any party leader.

Like Ms Davidson, he also has a low personal opinion of the Prime Minister.

Far more in tune with Mr Johnson is the party’s transport spokesman, Jamie Greene.

The West of Scotland MSP is one of the few true believers in Brexit at Holyrood, and will be under pressure to stand.

Also considering a run are the party’s health spokesman Miles Briggs, chief whip Maurice Golden, and economy spokesman Dean Lockhart.

READ MORE: Ruth Davidson confirms her resignation as Scottish Conservative leader

Other potential contenders include finance spokesman Murdo Fraser, who came second to Ms Davidson in 2011 after the Tory establishment-backed her to kill his idea of a breakaway Scottish party, justice spokesman Liam Kerr, equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells, and Donald Cameron, the party’s policy chief.

Constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins has said he does not want to be leader but is not ruling out standing.

In theory, one of the 13 Scottish Tory MPs could also stand for the leadership, with the Moray MP Douglas Ross, who was briefly an MSP in 2016 and 2017, seen as the only one who might consider it.

However it would be a tricky sell to party members and risky to try to parachute an MP into Holyrood with a by-election.