THE acrimonious race to succeed Ruth Davidson as Scottish Conservative leader will end today when the winner is unveiled.

Interim leader Jackson Carlaw and social security spokeswoman Michelle Ballantyne have not held back on their hostilities towards each other since the contest got under way at the start of last month.

Last week, Carlaw was forced to deny being “rattled” after suggesting Ballantyne should stand aside, and claiming her criticism of him was an attack on the whole party.

He insisted he remained “absolutely confident” of victory as the race tightened and accused the South of Scotland MSP of making a “huge mistake” by criticising the recent election campaign he led, which saw the Scottish party lose seven of its 13 MPs.

Ballantyne accused Carlaw’s side, which calls itself “Team Jackson”, of trying to undermine her with “secret recordings” and “tall tales” after a recording from a members-only event showed Ballantyne claiming climate change could “benefit” Scotland, but a report about it was “being suppressed”.

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The feuding came as the race to replace Davidson saw Ballantyne reportedly gaining ground on Carlaw, who started as the clear favourite.

Party insiders say the mood at hustings has been around 60-40 for Carlaw, far less than Team Jackson expected.

Ballantyne was an early backer of Brexit and Boris Johnson, while Carlaw was a late convert to both.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, she said there was a “policy vacuum”, with the party “failed to put forward credible proposals for fixing public services”. In a direct swipe at Carlaw, she said the party “lacked vision and ambition”. She wrote: “Our activists were desperate for something to talk about other than indyref2. Voters knew what our party was against, but few of them know what we were for. We spent more time talking about the constitution than the nationalists did.”

Carlaw then gave a follow-up interview to The Telegraph, accusing Ballantyne of lacking ideas. The Eastwood MSP said: “In all the time that she’s been in the shadow cabinet, Michelle is the only member never to have brought forward a single policy proposal or to table a single policy paper. I find all that curious.”

He also dismissed her plan for a Unionist pact at the 2021 Holyrood election to oust the SNP as “fool’s gold”.Carlaw, who has been backed by almost all of the Scots Tory MPs and MSPs, suggested the lack of support among parliamentarians should force Ballantyne to give up. “If I had the confidence of nobody at all, it would cause me to pause,” he said.

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But Ballantyne hit back saying: “It’s disappointing my critique of the unsuccessful election strategy has resulted in nervous opponents trying to undermine my campaign through secret recordings, leaks to the press and tall tales from the shadow cabinet room.

“Our party made historic gains in England and Wales in the General Election in December, but we went backwards in Scotland with the loss of seven talented and hard-working MPs. The result wasn’t down to our candidates or our activists; it was down to an uninspiring campaign with too much focus on the constitution. When something has been tried and tested and it hasn’t delivered, we mustn’t be afraid to take a bold new approach.”