DOUGLAS Ross vowed to provide a "credible and competent alternative to the SNP" as he was officially appointed the new leader of the Scottish Conservatives. 

The Moray MP was elected unopposed following the shock resignation of Jackson Carlaw last week, just six months after he became leader.

Mr Ross, 37, is his party's third leader in less than a year, and will be tasked with building support for the party ahead of next year's Holyrood election.

He said it was "the honour and privilege of a lifetime".

He added: "In taking on this job today, I am applying for another: to champion a post-referendum Scotland where we focus not on the divisions of the past but on rebuilding our country from the brink, restoring our reputation for educational excellence, empowering our regions and remote communities, and providing the decent jobs that everyone can aspire to. 

“I am applying to work for anyone and everyone in Scotland who wants that to be the focus of our national debate, who wants to move the country forward, and wants that work to start now. 

"I begin this next step in my life as many young people consider their own futures. 

"The nervous wait for exam results by thousands of young Scots yesterday ended for too many - particularly for those from more disadvantaged areas - in disappointment, confusion and anger.  

"As leader, education will be a crucial policy area for the Scottish Conservatives.

"Right now, I know many young people and teachers don't feel that it is a top priority for the Scottish Government. 

"All of this requires a huge amount of work - in a short space of time.

"But my guarantee to Scots is that when we head to the polling stations next May, the Scottish Conservatives will provide them with the credible and competent alternative to the SNP that the country so desperately needs.”

Mr Ross's coronation will see the return of former leader Ruth Davidson to the Holyrood frontline, where she will again tackle Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister's Questions.

Ms Ross and Ms Davidson yesterday said they would run as a "joint ticket" until the 2021 election, when he expects to enter Holyrood and she will move on to the House of Lords.

Writing in the Scottish Daily Mail, they said: "Just as the SNP has broken through the 'red wall', our aim is to show that the SNP wall standing in the way of progress is built on sand, and is there for the taking."

Polls suggest the SNP is on course for a landslide victory next year, which would pile pressure on the UK Government to agree to a second independence referendum.

The Scottish Tories hope to win support and prevent the SNP from gaining a Holyrood majority.

In the first 30 days of his leadership, Mr Ross has said he will publish an economic plan for Scotland, effectively launching the Conservatives campaign for 2021.

He also said he would like more powers to be given to local authorities to combat what he said has been a "power grab" from the Scottish Government.

Previously an MSP between 2016 and 2017, Mr Ross represented the Highlands and Islands region before beating SNP depute leader Angus Robertson for the Moray seat at Westminster.

After being appointed a Scotland Office minister in December, Mr Ross resigned in May over senior adviser Dominic Cummings flouting government guidance by travelling to Durham and Barnard Castle during lockdown.

The SNP has highlighted criticism he received in 2017 after he said he would like to see "tougher enforcement against gypsy travellers" if he was Prime Minister for the day.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown said Mr Ross is simply "Boris Johnson's man in Scotland".

He said: "Westminster has launched a total takeover of the Scottish Tories and installed a Brexit-backing MP to act as a puppet for Downing Street.

"As his Westminster voting record proves, Mr Ross couldn't be more out of touch with Scotland.

"His offensive comments on gypsy travellers were appalling and he has rubber-stamped every damaging decision on an extreme Brexit, a power grab on the Scottish Parliament, and deep austerity cuts to public services - despite the harm to our communities.

"With the threat of Brexit growing, senior Tory MSPs and advisers jumping ship, and Baroness Davidson preparing to join the House of Lords, it is clear the Tories are the same old party with nothing to offer except selling Scotland out.

"Whatever else we’ve learned in this whole grubby coup, and whatever their bluster, senior Tories are now effectively conceding publicly what they have been saying privately for some time - they know there is going to be an independence referendum. Otherwise why bother changing leaders?

"Unlike the Tories, the SNP will always stand up for Scotland and ensure that people have the choice of a better future instead of the Tory Brexit chaos being imposed by Westminster."

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Just months ago, the Scottish Tories were maintaining the pretence that they were something different from the extremist no-deal Brexiteers of the Boris Johnson camp.

"Today the instalment of Douglas Ross as their part time, absentee leader without even asking their members confirms that there isn’t a hint of difference between them.

“It’s also clear that the Prime Minister thinks the entire Holyrood group is useless, having overlooked the lot of them to appoint a backbench MP as leader.

"Combined with the stand-in role of Ruth Davidson, who is only marking time at Holyrood till she gets her ermine and her unelected job for life, it’s all symbolic of Boris Johnson’s contempt for Scotland and our Parliament, and even for their own members.

“It’s not just internal democracy the Tory leadership have distain for.

"They are clearly intent on pressing ahead with the power-grab against Scotland, with new legislation planned to give themselves a veto over any decisions that don’t fit their failed free market ideology.

"If Mr Ross wants to earn a shred of credibility, his first act as leader should be to insist that plan is scrapped. But I won’t be holding my breath.”