MICHAEL Gove faces being snubbed by Scottish Tories as they seek to rally behind an alternative to Boris Johnson to replace Theresa May.

Some party insiders suspect the Environment Secretary has “too much baggage” and believe the newly appointed International Development Secretary Rory Stewart could have a greater appeal to voters.

READ MORE: SNP MSPs warn Michael Gove against 'grubby' power grab

“I like Michael Gove personally and a lot of people are saying he is head and shoulders more intelligent than many of the other candidates such as Boris, but because of the Brexit debate he has baggage.

“He was seen to have stabbed Boris in the back in the last leadership contest and is nakedly ambitious to the point of betraying a colleague – that is the kind of behaviour that doesn’t sit well with someone who is a potential leadership candidate,” a senior figure told the Sunday National.

The National: Rory StewartRory Stewart

“With Boris it was his blunders as foreign secretary that didn’t go down well in the party. He is a great speaker, he’s charismatic, when he walks into a room he sets the place alight, but he was seen to be quite lazy and ill-prepared when he held one of the highest offices in the land.”

He added: “Someone like Rory who has just been appointed to the Cabinet has no such baggage. He was a senior soldier, he dressed up as an Afghan and walked across Afghanistan and into Iran. He is seen as quite an adventurer, an amazing character and certainly a one-nation Conservative. To my mind he may be in a position to carry maximum support.”

Johnson is the favoured candidate of the UK Tory grassroots.

But under the party’s leadership contest rules ordinary members can only vote on candidates who have first been selected by the party’s MPs.

READ MORE: Scottish Tories' Twitter proof they care more about indyref2 than Brexit

Candidates must be nominated by any two MPs. If only one candidate stands then they are elected uncontested. If two candidates stand, then the election proceeds to a ballot of all members of the party. If more than two candidates stand, the MPs vote in rounds, with the candidate with the least number of votes being knocked out each time until two candidates remain – with the ballot then open to all members.

Scottish Tories hope Johnson’s name won’t go forward to the final ballot, fearing he would win but that his brand of right-wing Euroscepticism would severely damage their party’s prospects at the 2021 Holyrood elections, scuppering Davidson’s bid to become first minister.

Instead they want to get behind a contender from the centre of the party who they believe can unite the warring factions and present a policy agenda more in tune with voters in Scotland.

The National:

The revelations that Scottish Tories may be ready to rally behind Stewart will be a blow to Gove who is likely to have considered they would give him their support.

The former journalist was one of the key speakers at the Scottish Conservative’s conference in his home city of Aberdeen last weekend.

He addressed delegates just ahead of party leader Ruth Davidson on Saturday, heaping abundant praise on his close ally and attempting to woo members to support his leadership bid.

READ MORE: Esther McVey confirms bid to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister

But despite Gove’s high-profile presence at the event, some senior party figures at the conference remain unconvinced.

“The history of Tory leadership contests is that the little known candidate can very often win,” said Struan Stevenson, a former Scottish Conservative MEP, who attended the conference last weekend.

“I don’t think Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab (pictured below) will get a majority in the parliamentary party whereas a relative newcomer like Rory Stewart might well emerge as the victor. I spoke to a lot of people at the conference in Aberdeen and I got the impression among MPs and MSPs that they are very much aware of him as a candidate. There is an appreciation of him as a one-nation Tory – and that is very much what we need when the right and centre wings of the party are divided over Brexit. We need someone like Rory Stewart who could bring us all back together and unite the factions – a divided party is not going to appeal to the electorate.”

The National:

Another senior figure who was at the party conference said: “Rory Stewart is a competent minister and time will tell how he gets on in the Cabinet.”

Like Johnson, Stewart is an Old Etonian.

The 46-year-old was born in Scotland and elected MP for Penrith in 2010 following a career outside politics which saw him serve as an officer in the Black Watch, a diplomat in Montenegro and a deputy governor of an Iraqi province.

Last week he became the first Cabinet minister to openly declare he wanted to succeed May as Prime Minister, warning the Conservatives the party would lose four million votes if it pursued a hard version of Brexit to “outdo Nigel Farage”.

May is under pressure from her party to stand down soon.

Other possible candidates to succeed May include Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and former department for work and pensions secretary Esther McVey.