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Douglas Ross to resign as leader of Scottish Conservatives

Douglas Ross to resign as leader of Scottish Conservatives
10 Haziran 2024 14:10
3

43 minutes ago

By Mary McCoolBBC Scotland News • David Wallace LockhartBBC Scotland Political Correspondent

Getty Images Douglas RossGetty Images

Douglas Ross said it was not feasible for him to continue in three roles – as MSP, MP and party leader

Douglas Ross has announced he will resign as leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

He will carry on in the role until after the election and will also resign as an MSP if he is re-elected to Westminster.

It follows a row over Mr Ross standing as a candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East instead of David Duguid, who has been in hospital and was in effect de-selected.

Mr Ross said he originally thought he could continue to serve as an MSP and MP as well as party leader, but said “on reflection, that is not feasible”.

He was the only MSP to also serve as an MP in the current Holyrood session before the UK Parliament dissolved.

Mr Duguid, who had held the Banff and Buchan seat since 2017, had already been adopted by local party members and has disputed suggestions that he is “seriously ill”.

Last week a senior Tory said Mr Ross’s position was not tenable and that his judgement over the situation had been “sorely lacking”.

On Monday, a Scottish Conservative source told BBC News that Mr Ross had come to the realisation that the party’s MSPs would not “put up” with him serving as both an MP and an MSP.

They added that the reaction to him announcing plans to stand in place of Mr Duguid was another factor.

Mr Ross said he was committed to “fighting and winning” the Westminster seat, the boundary for which has been newly drawn.

He said: “Should I be given the honour to represent the people and communities of this new seat, they should know being their MP would receive my complete focus and attention.

“I will therefore stand down as leader following the election on 4 July, once a successor is elected. Should I win the seat, I will also stand down as an MSP to make way for another Scottish Conservative representative in Holyrood.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he had enjoyed working with Mr Ross, but respected his decision to step down.

He said: “He’s been a steadfast champion for the union but also he and I have worked together on delivering two freeports for Scotland attracting jobs and investment, standing up to the SNP’s misguided gender recognition reforms and also being unashamedly champions of Scotland’s north sea energy industry – the only party to consistently have done that.

“I think that’s a track record that Douglas can be proud of.”

Mr Ross also came under pressure at the weekend when the Sunday Mail reported that his own advisers had raised concerns over 28 parliamentary travel claims which may have been combined with his work as a football linesman.

He said the expenses claims were approved by the independent parliamentary body IPSA and he would have “no issue” with the expenses being examined for a second time.

SNS Assistant referee Douglas Ross during a Viaplay Cup Round of Sixteen match between Heart of Midlothian and Partick Thistle at Tynecastle Stadium in August last yearSNS

Mr Ross pictured as assistant referee during a match between Hearts and Partick Thistle in August last year

In 2016, Mr Ross became the MSP for Highlands and Islands via the list system.

Following the unexpected resignation of Jackson Carlaw, he quickly became the leader of the Scottish Conservatives in August 2020.

Mr Carlaw said that a “younger and fresher voice” was needed to lead the party into the next Scottish Parliament election.

At the time Mr Ross was seen as a close ally of Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who spoke to him shortly after he was confirmed as leader – despite opposing Brexit in the EU referendum.

However he was also at times critical of Boris Johnson’s leadership.

Before leading the Scottish Conservatives, he had resigned as a Scotland Office minister when the PM’s adviser Dominic Cummings refused to quit for making a trip from London to Durham during lockdown.

In January 2022, Mr Ross withdrew his support for Boris Johnson saying his position had become “untenable” over lockdown parties, and he called for a no-confidence vote.

He then reversed that position when the war in Ukraine started, arguing that political upheaval at home would play into the hands of Vladimir Putin.

In a double U-turn, Mr Ross later voted for the motion of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership.

Corr box

When a party leader announces their resignation in the middle of an election campaign, you know something has gone very wrong.

For Douglas Ross, it was replacing the hospitalised David Duguid as his party’s candidate in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East at the general election.

Some were uneasy about the optics of the party leader swooping in when a colleague was ill.

But what had gone down really badly with Conservative MSPs at Holyrood was the plan to continue to try and carry on as both an MP and an MSP.

Douglas Ross had previously promised he wouldn’t do that.

One of his Scottish Tory colleagues told me last week it had been received “like a bucket of cold sick”.

So Mr Ross will leave Holyrood if re-elected to Westminster. Some of his colleagues feel that’s where his heart has always really been.

Pressure piled up on him over the weekend and may well have intensified with the newspaper story about his expenses.

His decision will impact on the UK-wide campaign too. Rishi Sunak won’t have factored in his Scottish leader calling it a day in the run-up to polling.

red line

Following Mr Ross’ announcement, the SNP’s candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, Seamus Logan, called on him to resign as an MSP.

He said: “It’s clear he’s been forced out as Scottish Tory leader after his shameful behaviour over David Duguid and his growing expenses scandal. Voters deserve a dedicated MSP – not one who is hedging his bets in case he loses the election.”

Alba leader Alex Salmond said it was the “first case of a rat deserting a sinking ship while simultaneously trying to clamber aboard a gravy train”.

He called on him to resign as a candidate for the Westminster seat, adding that Mr Ross was “totally devoid of honour”.

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie wished Mr Ross luck in the future, reserving her criticism for the Conservative party and UK government.

She said: “Voters know that this rotten Tory government has nothing to offer Scotland – it’s no wonder Douglas Ross has given up on trying to resuscitate the Scottish Tories’ flailing campaign.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said the move was proof the party was in “abject disarray”.

“Just like the SNP, the Tories have been in power for too long, breaking rules and taking you for granted,” he said.

And Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, told BBC News it has “never been clear” what Mr Ross’ focus was between working as an MSP, an MP and a football linesman.

She said: “I think its clear that the Tory party, UK-wide including in Scotland is toast. They’re on their way out so whoever takes on that role for the Scottish Tories, it’s going to be a pretty thankless task.”

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