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

The sacking of Jamie Greene as the Scottish Conservatives' shadow justice secretary dominated the news about Douglas Ross's end of term reshuffle last week.

But what lay beneath the headlines may have been the more significant development: the decision to promote Mr Greene's deputy Russell Findlay to the top justice role.

Mr Findlay has had a meteoric rise in the party at Holyrood. Despite only being elected for the first time two years ago after almost three decades working in newspapers, for the most part as a crime and investigations journalist for the Sunday Mail, he's already been tipped by many as the next Scottish Tory leader.

It's not always a smooth transition for members of the press to move into the world of frontline politics. Unlike life as an MSP or MP, reporters enjoy a considerable degree of freedom of action and thought and some members of the fourth estate have struggled to adapt to the discipline required to be a party politician. But Mr Findlay appears to have experienced no such career challenges.

His step into politics followed his recovery from a horrific acid attack by a criminal on his front door five years earlier.

In 2020 he was appointed as the Scottish Conservatives' director of communications, taking up the role as the party began to prepare for the elections the following May.

The appointment came as a surprise to some in the Conservative MSP group with the post previously filled by a senior journalist from the Holyrood press pack. His predecessor Eddie Barnes was a former political editor of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.

The fact that Mr Findlay spent most of his newspaper career at a paper usually seen as Labour leaning, was also something of a novelty in the Tory corridors.

"Some people joked that Russell was probably the only Tory at the Sunday Mail," a source told me.

Shortly after being elected to Holyrood, Mr Findlay was handed the role of shadow community justice minister in Mr Ross's team.

With a bulging book of contacts in the justice field, it was an obvious brief for the new MSP.

A campaign calling for prison officers to be allowed to photo copy letters to prisoners before being handed to inmates was an early success. Former justice secretary Keith Brown agreed to the measure after Mr Findlay brought to Holyrood's attention cases of drugs – in particular benzodiazepine etizolam – being smuggled into prison via letters saturated in the substance.

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Six months or so after the policy was brought in Scottish Prison Service chief executive Teresa Medhurst told MSPs that drug-taking incidents in Scottish prisons had dropped by 36%.

Policy around prisons was key to Mr Findlay's next big and critical success.

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 is 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 last December but the matter came back into the public spotlight in full force in January this year when the case of Isla Bryson made newspaper front pages around Scotland.

Bryson was the real life case Mr Findlay and Ms Thomson had theoretically warned about – a violent sex offender, convicted of raping two women yet placed, until the matter became public, with vulnerable females at the country's only women's prison HMP Cornton Vale.

The Herald:

Again Mr Brown was forced to make a major change to justice policy announcing that no transgender prisoner with a history of violence against women would be accommodated at Cornton Vale.

At the time the Bryson saga was believed by many to have been among the factors behind Nicola Sturgeon's decision to announce her resignation in mid February. Whether it was or not is likely to be up to future historians to determine.

Within weeks of her Bute House announcement the police probe into the SNP's finances escalated in ways unforeseen back in February.

What has become clear with the events unfolding around the SNP is the likely emergence of a new political landscape in Scotland.

Polls have suggested Labour is on the march, and while their unexpected resurgence has made the SNP anxious, it's also causing a headache for the Tories.

A major survey by Panelbase last month found that while the Conservatives could add a seat to their number at the next general election, bringing the party's tally of MPs to seven, the Conservatives look set to return to third place at Holyrood at the next election in 2026, behind the SNP (still the biggest party) and Labour.

Should such an eventuality come about, Mr Ross, should he continue to be party leader at that point, would be...

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