SCOTTISH leader Ruth Davidson and Edinburgh Southern candidate Miles Briggs have secured the top slots in the Conservatives’ Lothian regional list for next year’s Holyrood poll, virtually guaranteeing their election as MSPs.
The pair emerged in first and second place after a ballot involving party members and supporters across Lothian.
The current Lothian Tory MSPs – Gavin Brown and Cameron Buchanan – are both standing down at the elections next May.
Ms Davidson – who is quitting her Glasgow base to stand in Edinburgh Central – comfortably took the number one slot, as expected.
Mr Briggs – who fought Edinburgh South at the general election earlier this year – won second place by beating off competition from Edinburgh Pentlands candidate Gordon Lindhurst, who took third place, and Iain McGill (Edinburgh Northern & Leith) and Jeremy Balfour (Midlothian North & Musselburgh) who tied in fourth.
Mr Briggs said: “I’m delighted to have the opportunity now to fight Edinburgh Southern constituency, but also be part of a larger Lothian team.
“It’s vital we secure the largest possible Conservative vote in Lothian region.
“Every vote will count towards the return of the largest MSP group we have ever had.”
Ms Davidson has voiced the hope that her high profile will attract enough extra list votes in Lothian to win the Conservatives a third MSP here.
Nick Cook (Edinburgh Eastern) will be number six on the Lothian list, Iain Whyte (Almond Valley) number seven, Sandy Batho (Edinburgh Western) number eight and Charles Kennedy (Linlithgow) number nine.
In previous Holyrood elections, the ballot to rank the candidates involved only party members in each region, but this time the Tories invited supporters to register to have a say too.
The party is not disclosing how many took up the offer, but it is understood around 30,000 ballot papers were sent out in Lothian, of which only 1700 were party members.
Ms Davidson said: “This has been the most democratic system any of the parties have used to rank candidates. We intend to make great progress in May, and the list vote is going to be vital.