Douglas Ross being an MP and MSP treating voters with contempt, Swinney says

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

John Swinney: Douglas Ross being an MP and MSP is treating voters with contempt PA Media

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 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, 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.PA Media

That came after the Scottish Conservative management board, which Ross is a member of, had ruled Duguid, who has been in hospital since April, was not well enough to stand.

But 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, 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 expensesPA Media

He stressed he was “committed to fighting and winning the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency” and added that if he wins the seat he would give it his “complete focus and attention”.

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

The First Minister and SNP leader said: “One minute he wants to come to Holyrood to become First Minister, he now seems to have given up on that by standing down from the Conservative Party leadership.

“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 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.PA Media

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, said he respected Ross’s decision to step down as Scottish Tory leader – a position he has held since August 2020.

Sunak said he had worked with 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 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.”

Harvie said Ross running for Westminster while Duguid was “still convalescing in hospital” had meant “some in the Conservative Party have finally woken up and recognised what a nasty bully Douglas Ross is and they have had enough of him”.

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 Ross’ decision was “yet more proof of a Conservative party in abject disarray”.

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