UPDATE: The Scottish Tories have confirmed that Craig Paterson is no longer being hired. It comes after Jim Murphy said that Paterson had never worked for him. Click HERE for the full story.

A FORMER New Labour special adviser has reportedly been hired by the Scottish Tories as a number of Douglas Ross's top backroom team are set to leave the party's operation.

With Ross's chief of staff Jon Novakovic leading an exodus of Tory staffers, Craig Paterson, a senior policy adviser to former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, has been recruited. 

Ross revealed in an email to Scottish Tory staff that Novakovic, a former Australian political adviser whose previous job was for Mercy Corps on humanitarian aid and delivery, will step down at the end of October. 

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Novakovic was seen as a driving force behind the Scottish Tories' strategy to expand their support base in Scotland. However, at the last local council election in May 2022, the Tories' support collapsed - they came in third place, behind Labour, in overall votes and lost 62 seats. 

In two weeks' time, two other top staffers will leave their roles. David Bateman, the party's director of communications, and Harley Lothian, head of digital, will leave almost immediately after the UK Tory party conference in Brighton. 

The pair are starting a digital communication firm called Peach Partners, with their exit raising eyebrows amongst MSPs. 

The National: A number of key staff have left Ross's team in recent weeksA number of key staff have left Ross's team in recent weeks (Image: PA)

In a note to staff, Ross said: “Craig arrives with extensive knowledge of Scottish politics, having once been a key part of Scottish Labour’s operations."

Steven McGinty, a former market intelligence analyst in the oil and gas industry with the James Fischer Group, will join the Scottish Tories' research team on October 17. 

Elliot Roy, former No 10 and Scotland Office adviser, will become the political director and run the political research unit, while Barry Graham will remain in post as head of media, becoming the most senior member to deal with the press. 

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According to Ross's email, the party will hire a new chief of staff and head of digital to replace Bateman and Lothian, although no timetable was suggested.

It comes after one of Ross's MSPs resigned before the second year of Holyrood's parliamentary term.

Dean Lockhart, regional MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, stepped down to pursue a career in the private sector and will be replaced by former Perth and Kinross councillor Roz McCall, without a by-election being held