By Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Conservative leadership candidate

Having gone from the third party in Holyrood to the main party of opposition, Scottish Conservatives can be rightly proud of what we’ve achieved in the past decade.

Under the energetic and dynamic leadership of our former party leader, Ruth Davidson, we have leapfrogged a dithering and distracted Labour Party and now we consistently hold Nicola Sturgeon, and her perpetually independence-obsessed government, to account on the issues that matter to Scotland like health, schools, and law and order.

We’ve also made it unequivocally clear that we are the only party in Scotland that can be trusted on the Union.

Scottish Conservatives have stood up for Scotland’s place in our United Kingdom at every opportunity and have defended the decision, taken by over two million Scots in 2014, to remain as part of our family of nations at every turn, while other parties conspire to undermine it or continue to sit on their hands. 

However, time marches on and we have a new set of challenges ahead.

The SNP’s poor record of governing in Scotland continues to disappoint and let down the Scottish people in every single area of devolved government.

Our public services and economy, despite being in the highest-taxed part of the United Kingdom, are poorly managed, struggling, and deflated under Nicola Sturgeon’s watch and this cannot be allowed to continue. 

This is where, I believe, there is more room for Scottish Conservatives to continue to make positive, active, and demonstrable change in the lives of the Scottish people.

There are less than 18 months until Scotland goes to the polls to vote for its next government and, in that time, we have two big jobs to do.

Firstly, we must continue to be a robust and consistent challenger to this beleaguered and bleary-eyed SNP administration.

Our team will raise our game so as not to miss a moment to remind Nicola Sturgeon that it is her duty, for now, to protect and nurture our public services, like our publicly-funded NHS, and to do everything possible to promote Scottish prosperity and seize the opportunities as well as meeting the challenges post-Brexit. 

And, as seems unfortunately likely, if the First Minister or her government continues to be distracted by their goal of a second divisive referendum on independence then we’ll be there to remind her that Scotland said no and meant it in 2014. 

Secondly, we need to make sure that we have an offer that reflects the Scotland we seek to serve and provides solutions to the problems our country faces.

We need fresh, innovative people with ideas to match, brought together by a shared vision of “blue collar Conservatism” and that is what I propose to bring to the leadership of the party. 

Having endured years of SNP mismanagement and constitutional obsession, now is the time for Scotland to move on.

The new leader of the Scottish Conservatives, which I hope to be, will need to work with urgency, clarity, and determination to make this happen. 

Scottish public life has been marred for far too long by a government that seeks in everything it does to break up the most successful family of nations that has ever existed and its corresponding failure to deliver on the areas over which it has responsibility.

That is self-evident. 

Of course, we will continue to hold the SNP to account to stand firm on the Union but, as we move into a new decade, that will not be enough.

A more proactive approach will be needed, and needed fast. We need new ideas and a platform fit for the new post-brexit decade into which we have just recently stepped.

Naturally, this will involve examining the positions that we have held in the past and considering whether or not they are still in the best interests of the people of Scotland.

At such a crucial time, and with Scotland facing so many challenges, we cannot afford to be over-cautious or engaging in a navel-gazing exercise. Our platform and attitude must reflect this need. 

It must also reflect that most conservative of desires, the wish to provide people with the opportunities they need to get on in life.

Every policy we put forward, whether it aims to get rid of the attainment gap, promote more apprenticeships, or grow our economy to create more jobs, must be focused around the goal of as genuine and exciting opportunity for everyone.

That is why it is my intention to bring together a diverse, talented, and innovative team of people from across Scotland’s many different demographics to craft a new offer for the people of Scotland to consider when they go to the polls in May next year. 

One that fits with modern Scotland and consigns the constant, exhausting, and excruciating constitutional division to the past.

There are challenges ahead, it would be churlish to deny that, but a reinvigorated, rededicated, and revitalised team of Scottish Conservatives, under my leadership, will stand ready to deliver solutions that work for all Scots and I invite everyone to join us making that happen. 

Jackson Carlaw is the acting leader of the Scottish Conservatives and a Scottish Conservative leadership contender