DOUGLAS Ross has formally announced his bid to become the new Scottish Conservative leader – pledging that keeping the UK together will be “an absolute priority”.

The Moray MP was touted to put himself forward yesterday after Jackson Carlaw resigned less than six months into the job.

If successful, Mr Ross will seek election as an MSP at the next Holyrood elections in May.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross: Five things you need to know about new potential Scottish Tory leader

He said former Scottish Conservative leader and Edinburgh Central MSP Ruth Davidson has agreed to lead First Minister’s Questions in the interim.

Mr Ross said “this is a crucial time in Scottish politics”.

He added: “We are months away from an important election and need strong, decisive leadership of our party to take on and defeat the SNP in seats right across the country.

“My message to voters across Scotland will be this: if you want to build a better Scotland, if you want to beat the SNP and if you want to put the divisions of the past few years behind us, the party I plan to lead is one you can unite behind, and one that can win.

READ MORE: Jackson Carlaw quits as Scottish Conservative leader

“I want us to show clearly to everyone in Scotland, no matter where they live or who they are, that if they want to move on from the divisions of the past and focus on the issues that really matter: a strong economy, good schools, safe streets and a world-leading NHS, then the Scottish Conservative will be their voice.

“Scotland is an integral part of the United Kingdom and that’s a relationship I want to maintain and improve. Under my leadership, this will be an absolute priority.”

Mr Carlaw said he was "delighted "that Mr Ross will seek to replace him.

He added: "I’ve known Douglas all his political life and he is exactly the candidate with the energy to lead that I had in mind.

"Our party should unite behind him and back him all the way."