A FORMER Borders councillor is hoping to become the next Tory leader in Scotland.

Michelle Ballantyne this week threw her hat into the leadership contest ring.

And it would appear that it will be a two-horse race against interim chief Jackson Carlaw if she can attract the required 100 nominations.

Ms Ballantyne, who was the Conservative leader on Scottish Borders Council before taking her seat at Holyrood, told us: "If I receive the 100 nominations required to trigger a leadership contest, I would bring to bear the experiences I have as a manager in the NHS, head of a charity and as a businesswoman to ensure we have a robust debate about the future direction of our party and policies.

“The Scottish Conservatives need to offer voters an optimistic and inspiring solution for the country’s future.

"The Scottish Conservatives are still the government-in-waiting.

"A proper contest will help remind people why.”

Ms Ballantyne, who lives outside Selkirk, became a South of Scotland list MSP in May, 2017 - replacing Rachael Hamilton, who had won the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire seat.

She was initially appointed as her party's spokesperson for Childcare and Early Years.

And last May Ms Hamilton was promoted to the front bench as spokesperson for Social Security.

Although she has courted controversy with her stance on welfare reforms, she is seen in political circles as one of her party's rising stars.

Ruth Davidson, who grew up in Selkirk, resigned as leader of the Scottish Conservatives last August, citing changes in her personal life as well as her party's stance over Brexit.

And Ms Ballantyne believes it is vital that a contest is held again to gauge the views of her party's membership over their next leader.

She added: “In 2011, the Scottish Conservative members made their voice heard when they chose a newly elected Ruth Davidson to lead the party over seasoned veterans like Murdo Fraser or Jackson Carlaw.

“The party leadership will have far reaching consequences, and this is why the decision needs to be made by our members rather than in a dark room by political insiders."

Jackson Carlaw took over as interim leader last August.

And he was also the first to declare as a candidate for the permanent leadership position.

Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton has already offered her backing and will act as one of his campaign chairs.

Nominations for the leader's post close at noon on January 17, with a vote to follow if more than one candidate wins the backing of 100 members.