This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

The shock announcement by Douglas Ross today that he is to resign as Scottish Conservative leader after the General Election has focused attention on who could succeed him in the role.

Mr Ross faced an internal party backlash against his decision to U-turn and stand again for Westminster and his resignation is believed to be the first time that a UK political leader has quit during a general election campaign.

The MSP had previously pledged to leave the House of Commons and focus on leading the Tories at Holyrood but prompted fury by instead declaring on Thursday that he would run for the Aberdeenshire North & Moray East constituency.

Read more:

Douglas Ross to quit as Scottish Tory leader and could also stand down as MSP

This followed the Scottish Conservative board sacking David Duguid, the incumbent candidate, who had been reselected by local party members, because of his ill health.

Russell Findlay, the justice spokesman and an MSP for Glasgow, is said to have “support across the party” and will be encouraged to stand by multiple senior figures. He has repeatedly denied having ambitions for the leadership.

A former investigative and crime reporter, Mr Findlay has had a meteoric rise in the party at Holyrood. Despite only being elected for the first time in 2021 after almost three decades working in newspapers, he's already been tipped by many as the next Scottish Tory leader.

His step into politics followed his recovery from a horrific acid attack by a criminal on his front door five years earlier which he has written extensively about in his book Acid Attack.

A vehement critic of the Scottish Government's gender recognition reform bill, he tabled an amendment to the legislation with SNP MSP Michelle Thomson, who shared similar concerns over the self declaration measures.

It called for people accused of sexual offences to be unable to change their legal gender until after their trial. The duo's reasoning behind the proposal at the time was that it would provide a safeguard in the legislation, preventing predatory rapists access to accommodation in women's prisons.

The amendment was defeated in the Holyrood vote in December 2022 but the matter came back into the public spotlight in full force in January last year when the case of Isla Bryson made newspaper front pages around Scotland.

Other potential frontrunners could be Craig Hoy, the party chairman, Jamie Greene, the former justice spokesman, and Stephen Kerr, the former chief whip, who is also standing for a Westminster seat.

The Herald: Craig Hoy, Scottish Tory chairman and South Scotland MSP, is a potential frontrunnerCraig Hoy, Scottish Tory chairman and South Scotland MSP, is a potential frontrunner (Image: Newsquest)
Other candidates could include Murdo Fraser, the economy spokesman, Meghan Gallacher, the deputy leader, Liam Kerr, the education spokesman, and Maurice Golden, the former chief whip, although multiple MSPs said there was little desire for people to publicise their intentions before the election.

The most serious potential challengers to Mr Findlay could well be Mr Hoy and Mr Greene.

Mr Hoy, an MSP for the South of Scotland, is seen as a likely candidate should MSPs not decide not to rally around one contender.

Like Mr Findlay, Mr Hoy is another former journalist who was elected to Holyrood for the first time in 2021.

He is regarded as a strong media performer who regularly steps up to do the big press interviews and tackle tricky issues head on.

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Jamie Greene is another Tory politician who is being discussed as a possible contender.

Mr Greene was controversially sacked by Mr Ross as the party's justice spokesman and replaced by Mr Findlay in June last year.

The MSP for the west of Scotland was one of the few Conservative MSPs who voted for the Scottish Government's gender reform bill.

While the party had allowed a free vote on the legislation, the Tories had vigorously argued against the SNP/Greens plans to allow trans people to self declare their chosen gender. The bill was passed by Holyrood but later blocked by the UK Government.

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After his sacking Mr Greene hinted he did regret supporting the bill as he spoke of his "disappointment" at losing his frontbench role.

In his statement, Mr Greene said: "Free thinking and standing up for your principles are qualities that I take pride in and pride is something to celebrate, not hide away."

Whether chosen by the Tory MSPs or elected by the wider party, whoever succeeds Mr Ross will face a challenge in getting the Scottish Conservatives ready for the 2026 Holyrood election with polls suggesting the party could move from being the second biggest party in Holyrood to the third amid a resurgent Labour and fall in support for the SNP.