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Ruth Davidson quits as Scottish Tory leader due to 'personal and professional' reasons

  Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson during a press conference at Holyrood Hotel in Edinburgh, following her announcement that she has resigned as leader of the Scottish Conservatives, saying holding the post had been the "privilege of my life". Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Ruth Davidson has stepped down as leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.

She made an announcement shortly after 11am at a press conference in Edinburgh.

In her resignation letter, Ms Davidson said she had taken the decision as she faced fighting two elections in the next two years and did not want to be away from her young family.

She said: "It has been the privilege of my life to serve as the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party.

"The almost eight years I've spent at the helm have coincided with one of the most remarkable and important periods of recent Scottish political history."

The letter went on: "Inevitably, much has changed over the years of my leadership - both personally and in the wider political context. While I have not hidden the conflict I have felt over Brexit, I have attempted to chart a course for our party which recognises and respects the referendum result, while seeking to maximise opportunities and mitigate risks for key Scottish businesses and sectors.

"The biggest change, of course, has been starting a family. I cannot thank you, Jackson Carlaw and the wider party enough for the generosity and support you have all shown to Jen and me following the birth of baby Finn. It made my return to work in April as smooth as I could have hoped and I believe the flexibility shown by colleagues has allowed me these last months to continue operating successfully in my role as leader.

"However, as I look to the future, I see the Scottish Election due in 2021 and a credible threat from our opponents to force a general election before then. Having led our party through seven national elections and two referenda, I know the efforts, hours and travel required to fight such campaigns successfully.

"I have to be honest that where the idea of getting on the road to fight two elections in 20 months would once have fired me up, the threat of spending hundreds of hours away from my home and family now fills me with dread. That is no way to lead."

Ruth Davidson has, almost singlehandedly, transformed the fortunes of the Scottish Conservatives.

Under her leadership, the Tories - who were wiped out in Scotland in the 1997 general election - have become the main party of opposition to the SNP, largely due to a stong focus on keeping the country within the United Kingdom.

That policy will not change with her successor - this is, after all, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, to give it its full title.

But Ms Davidson's sudden departure leaves a massive void within the party north of the border.

The last two elections have seen the Tories make major gains under Ms Davidson - with the party winning a record 31 seats at Holyrood in 2016, overtaking Labour to become the main opposition party within the Scottish Parliament.

Meanwhile, in the 2017 general election, the party won 13 seats in Scotland, up from the one they had held previously, with Tories delighted to oust both former first minister Alex Salmond and the SNP's then-Westminster leader Angus Robertson from their seats.

This result helped keep then-prime minister Theresa May in Downing Street, and it is uncertain whether Ms Davidson's successor would be able to repeat it at the next election.

As to who her successor might be, a possible candidate could be Murdo Fraser - who ran for the job against Ms Davidson back in 2011.

At that time he proposed that the Scottish Tories should split from the UK party - an idea which could prove appealing given the lack of support north of the border for Brexit and Boris Johnson.

Adam Tomkins, the party's constitution spokesman at Holyrood, could be another contender.

He was elected to Holyrood in 2016, but prior to that the constitutional law expert represented the Tories on the Smith Commission, the cross-party body which agreed the blueprint for greater devolution in the wake of the 2014 independence referendum.

Miles Briggs, meanwhile, has proved successful as Scottish Conservative health spokesman, pushing the Scottish Government to extend free personal care to under-65s as part of the Frank's Law campaign.

And Liam Kerr - another Conservative who came to Holyrood - has also been a strong performer as the party's justice spokesman.

Jackson Carlaw, who became an MSP in 2007, is the current Scottish Conservative depute leader, and filled in for Ms Davidson when she went on maternity leave.

But having first stood for election in 1982, it is uncertain if he would want to take on the leadership role on a permanent basis.

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