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Ross hedging his bets is treating Scottish voters with contempt, says Swinney

Douglas Ross announced he is stepping down as Scottish Conservative leader – and will leave Holyrood if he wins a seat at Westminster next month.


Scotland’s First Minister has accused outgoing Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross of treating voters with contempt – after the Conservative announced he would only quit Holyrood if he wins a seat at Westminster.

John Swinney insisted he was “not at all surprised” that Mr Ross announced he will step down as Scottish Tory leader after next month’s General Election.

And the SNP leader said the Tory’s decision to stand in the seat where former Scotland Office minister David Duguid had wanted to run had “obviously left a very bad taste in the mouths of the Conservative Party”.

On Thursday of last week, Mr Ross had declared he was breaking the commitment he gave previously to step down from Westminster, and would be fighting the seat of Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.

SNP leader and Scottish First Minister John Swinney said he was ‘not at all surprised’ Dougals Ross is stepping down as Tory leader north of the border (Lesley Martin/PA)

But Mr Ross’s decision to “lead from the front” and put himself forward appears to have sparked a backlash from within his own party.

Meanwhile, the Tory was also facing questions from the SNP about his expenses amid reports he had used Westminster expenses to fund travel for his job as a football assistant referee.

Just four days after announcing he would run for a job in the Commons again, Mr Ross said it was “not feasible” for him to continue with the three positions he has held, as an MP, an MSP and Scottish Conservative leader.

Douglas Ross was also facing questions about his role as a linesman and his use of expenses (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Mr Ross said: “I will, therefore, stand down as leader following the election on July 4, 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.”

But Mr Swinney claimed the Tory was behaving in a “contemptible” manner.

“He now wants to go to Westminster, if that doesn’t work out for him he will carry on with his representation in the Scottish Parliament.

“That is a level of taking the electorate for granted which is totally unacceptable.

“And I am staggered that the Conservative Party is putting up with this because it just is demonstrating contempt for the electorate.”

He went on to accuse Mr Ross of “really treating the electorate with contempt”, adding: “He wants to have it on his terms.

“Well, when you’re in politics, you’re in it on the terms of the electorate. We all accept that. It’s the electorate that decides.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, said he had enjoyed working with Douglas Ross (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Sunak said he had worked with Mr Ross on issues such as freeports, “standing up to the SNP’s misguided gender recognition reforms” and promoting the North Sea energy sector.

He added: “I think that’s a track record that Douglas can be proud of and I’ve enjoyed working with him, but I respect his decision.”

However, Scottish Green party co-leader Patrick Harvie branded Mr Ross a “nasty bully” – with the Tory’s SNP rival in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East demanding he should immediately quit his post as a Highlands and Islands MSP.

Seamus Logan, who is fighting the seat for the SNP, insisted: “Douglas Ross must resign as an MSP today.

“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.”

He stated: “Douglas Ross has been perhaps the worst leader in the Scottish Tories’ history and the Scottish Parliament and, indeed, Scottish politics, will be well rid of him.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Douglas Ross is the first senior Tory to fall as a result of this election campaign but I hope he’s not the last.”

And Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton claimed Mr Ross’ decision was “yet more proof of a Conservative party in abject disarray”.

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