THE richest MSP in Holyrood has been given a more prominent role in the Scottish Tories amid the cost of living crisis.

Millionaire Old Etonian Alexander Burnett of Leys was promoted by leader Douglas Ross to the post of chief whip, a role with a high media profile.

The announcement came shortly after the aristocratic MSP for Aberdeenshire West told Holyrood the late Queen came to his house for tea when he was a boy, as she was a close friend of his grandmother, Lady Georgina Kennard. 

Mr Burnett’s register of parliamentary interests includes estates worth more than £30m and shares worth more than £10m.

Mr Ross promoted him from deputy chief whip to replace Stephen Kerr, who becomes the party’s new education spokesman.

The post was vacant after Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell quit for personal reasons.

As chief whip, Mr Kerr was a regular spokesman for the party on TV and radio

Mr Ross said: “I am delighted to appoint Stephen and Alexander to these new positions.

“I was naturally disappointed when Oliver stepped down from the Shadow Cabinet but I know Stephen has the experience and drive to hit the ground running as the party’s new Shadow Education Secretary and build on Oliver’s fine work.

“As a former convener of the Parliament’s Education Committee, he has already shown he is more than capable of holding the SNP to account over their failures within Scotland’s education system.

“Alexander has already provided superb support to our whips office and I know he will be a strong Chief Whip as he makes the step up from deputy.”

Mr Kerr said: “I’m extremely pleased to be taking on this role and look forward to building on the tireless work Oliver carried out as Shadow Education Secretary.

“During their 15 years in charge the SNP have repeatedly let down pupils, parents and teachers, despite Nicola Sturgeon’s insistence that education was her top priority.

“I will ensure that they answer for the decline in Scotland’s global reputation in education and their failure to close the attainment gap.”

Mr Burnett said: “I am thrilled to be stepping up to the role of Chief Whip. I have thoroughly enjoyed being Deputy Chief Whip in recent months and I am excited to be taking on this new responsibility.

“Alongside my fellow Scottish Conservative MSPs, I will continue to ensure that we are holding the SNP-Green Government to account and showing voters across the country that we are Scotland’s real alternative.”

The changes coincide with a shake-up of the Scottish Tories’ back office operation.

Mr Ross has hired a former Labour policy adviser Craig Paterson as his head of research.

Steven McGinty, a former market intelligence analyst with the James Fisher Group in the oil and gas industry, will join the party’s research team on October 17.

Elliot Roy, a former No 10 adviser, has been promoted to run the political research unit while former journalist Barry Graham remains in post as head of media.

Meanwhile Mr Ross’s chief of staff, Jon Novakovic, and communications director David 

Bateman are leaving, raising eyebrows among some MSPs.

SNP MSP Paul McLennan said: "It will come as a surprise to absolutely no one that it is so easy to make the switch from advising Labour to advising the Tories – both parties are two sides of the same coin.

"This shows once again that Labour do not provide an escape from or an alternative to the Tories. That is why the only way for the people of Scotland to forge a better, fairer path is with independence.”