THOUSANDS of voters who told canvassers they were backing the Tories are to help choose the party’s key candidates for next year’s Holyrood elections.
The Scottish Conservatives are expanding their selection process to include Tory supporters as well as party members.
There is expected to be greater interest in the Tory selections this time because so many Conservative MSPs have decided to stand down at the elections next May.
Former leader Annabel Goldie heads the list of those leaving the Scottish Parliament. Others include Lothian MSP Gavin Brown, former presiding officer Alex Ferguson and Holyrood veterans Mary Scanlon and Nanette Milne. Tory party members will still choose the candidates to fight each individual constituency, but when it comes to the regional lists – where the party is likely to pick up most of its MSPs – non-members will be given a say for the first time.
All the constituency candidates in each region are also eligible for the list, but the crucial issue is how near the top they can get.
In most cases, Tory candidates would have to be number one or two to have a realistic chance of being elected.
Twelve of the party’s current contingent of 15 MSPs were elected from the list.
The ranking process will see Conservative members and supporters in each region sent ballot papers to help decide the order. It is thought they will be asked to pick their top three names in order of preference.
The Tories say the new system represents the widest democratic consultation of any party.
The party hopes it will increase people’s recognition of Conservative candidates and encourage more people to vote Tory on the list.
The system is similar to the system of primaries in some parts of the United States, where people can register as Democrat or Republican voters and then take part in choosing that party’s candidate.
Last year the party went even further and allowed all voters, whether or not they were Tory supporters, to help choose the Conservatives’ general election candidate for North East Fife. Scottish Conservative depute leader Jackson Carlaw said: “We have reviewed our candidate selection, consulted extensively on the list ranking process for Holyrood and our plans were approved in principle by our National Convention over a year ago.
“Party members will continue to select the candidates who will fight individual constituencies.
“However, thereafter several hundred thousand Scots will be invited to participate in the ranking of candidates for the additional list vote – the widest democratic consultation for Holyrood candidates of any party.
“This is just further evidence of the real change Ruth Davidson is bringing to the way Scottish Conservatives work and consult with the people of Scotland.”
No dates have yet been set for the ranking process but constituency selections are expected to be made soon.