A GROWING number of senior Scottish Conservatives are in favour of holding a second independence referendum, according to a former party spin doctor.

The idea of holding another vote has always been a firmly rejected by party leaders, with the official stance of "No to Indyref2" appearing throughout the general election campaign of last year.

The party's new leader, Jackson Carlaw, has also said he is against holding a second referendum.

However Andy Maciver, the party's former head of communications and now director of think tank Message Matters, said he has been in several conferences and talks with leading party members who say they are in favour of holding another vote on the constitution.

The former adviser said: "The reality of next year is that it is all about how the Scottish Conservatives deal with indyref2.

"There is one camp who thinks they have to say yes to indyref2, and the other are saying 'It was once in a generation, the SNP are mucking up the country and people will realise that'.

READ MORE: Jackson Carlaw elected new leader of Scottish Conservatives 

"I have been involved in conferences on both sides here, but there are very senior people on both sides of this and that is a problem for the Tories.

"That is the biggest thing Jackson Carlaw has to deal with.

"Many of the Scottish Tories have got a hope that the SNP have got policy problems, in education and so on. To a degree they are right but it's wishful thinking that those issues are going to impact on election voting patterns.

"The SNP are still polling at 50% almost, so they cannot be called a government in trouble.

"The reality is, the SNP will want to make the next election about indyref2, the media will want to make it about indyref2, so it's going to be about indyref2. The Tories can go and do a school visit on a Tuesday afternoon, but the first question they get will be on indyref2.

"They need to work out what to do."

It comes as the Scottish Tories enter a new era under veteran politician Carlaw, who defeated his opponent Michelle Ballantyne with 75% of the 6417 votes by party members. Just 59% of eligible voters took part in the election.

He celebrated his victory on Friday with a congratulatory phone call from Boris Johnson, followed shortly afterwards by the announcement of a raft of new appointees to senior roles.

They included Glasgow MSP Annie Wells as joint deputy leader alongside North East MSP Liam Kerr, and Rachael Hamilton, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, becoming joint party chairwoman with existing chairman Rab Forman.

It is believed Carlaw made the appointments to provider greater gender balance to the party, while offering well-performing female MSPs the chance to gain more experience.

Sources who spoke to The Herald on Sunday said there could be a raft of changes next week as Carlaw announces his new shadow cabinet, with Wells expected to be given a promotion from her existing role as Equalities spokeswoman. Jamie Greene, MSP for West Scotland and transport spokesman, has also been tipped for promotion.

Miles Briggs, the party's health spokesman, and Liam Kerr, who looks after justice, are both expected to play a role in the new top team, albeit in different positions than they hold now, however less experienced MSPs, it has been suggested, could make an appearance too.

One Scottish Conservative source said that Carlaw "would not want to rock the boat" at this stage in his leadership, while another said there would be "major changes to the shadow cabinet" next week, focused mainly on rearranging the existing members rather than sacking people.

READ MORE: Scottish independence support maintains lead in latest poll 

Another source suggested Ballantyne, who lost the leadership race, would have no place in the top tier at Holyrood, nor would she be expecting one. She is currently the party's social security spokeswoman.

The party insider said: "If the vote had been closer, and there were more people in favour of Michelle for leader, there would be a bit of an onus on Jackson to give her a senior position but at this stage there is absolutely no need for him to do it.

"It just depends if he thinks Michelle will be more of a threat to him by being in the shadow cabinet, or out of it. I don't think he would want someone who ran against him in the leadership contest to then be working alongside him on key campaign and policy strategy, but who knows."

Speaking to The Herald on Sunday, Carlaw appeared to avoid the IndyRef2 question altogether, focusing instead on his plans for the Holyrood elections.

He said: "The campaign for Holyrood 2021 is only a year away from launching, and the hard work very much starts now.

“We’ll be reviewing our policies, announcing some key changes to those policies, and moving people into the right place for a campaign that aims to win.

“People know the SNP has been neglecting the day job, and it’s now down to us to prove to them that we will go about the day job in a far better way.

“It’s now time for Scotland to move on from constitutional division and focus on the things that really matter.

“After 13 years, the SNP is in a downward spiral – a government which is morally and politically bankrupt.

“It’s time for a change at the top.”