Ross backtracks on suggestion Tories could vote Labour to oust SNP

The Scottish Tories leader sought to clarify his tactical voting comments after Westminster party 'emphatically' rejected his message.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross backtracks on tactical Labour vote suggestion to oust SNP STV News

Douglas Ross has backtracked on comments he made suggesting Conservative voters could vote Labour at the next general election in seats where the party had a better chance of winning against the SNP.

The Scottish Conservative leader’s remarks in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph suggested Conservative voters “do what is best for the country” and support “the strongest candidate to beat the SNP” – strongly suggesting that may involve voting Labour, where they are in the best place to beat the SNP.

The Tories rejected Mr Ross’s comments on Sunday, and said they were “emphatically not the view of the Conservative Party” and that voters should support the Tories “wherever they are standing”.

Ross, who has been leader of the Scottish Conservatives since 2020, then suggested other parties should vote for the Tories to oust the SNP across Scotland.

He told STV News: “If Labour and Liberal Democrat voters unite behind the Scottish Conservatives, we can see the losses for the SNP being quite significant.

“That would be an extremely telling moment that we can move on from the arguments surrounding independence to the argument of dealing with the cost of living crisis and improving education standards.”

The Scottish Tory leader also appeared to backtrack on the comments in an interview with Channel 4’s Ciaran Jenkins on Sunday evening.

The Conservatives rejected Ross's tactical voting commentsSTV News

He told Channel 4 News: “I’m very clear I want Scottish Conservative voters to vote Scottish Conservative, but we know, there are many seats across Scotland in the north, the north east and the central belt such as East Renfrewshire where the Scottish Conservatives are the challengers to the SNP.”

“If supporters of other parties unite behind the Scottish Conservatives we can see the SNP losing seats right across Scotland.

“What I am focused on are the seats where the Scottish Conservatives are the main challengers, it’s up to other parties to decide what they want to do in the seats they are targeting.

“Currently at Westminster and Holyrood, the Scottish Conservatives have more MSPs and MPs than Labour or the Liberal Democrats combined.

“We are the biggest party challenging the SNP.”

He was shown figures that Labour were second place to the SNP in 26 Westminster seats in Scotland, compared to 20 for the Tories.

Mr Ross responded: “I haven’t discussed this directly with the Prime Minister, but we have discussed where we are going to be focusing our efforts in the forthcoming general election whenever that is called.”

UK Conservative leader and Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.Flickr

SNP MP David Linden said: “I think most voters in Scotland would not be necessarily surprised at the prospect of an electoral pact between Labour party and Conservatives.

“We already see, for example, in Scottish local government, that Labour and Conservatives work hand in glove.

“The SNP’s message at next year’s general election is that you should vote SNP to reject this electoral pact.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “Douglas Ross’ delusional reaction to the pressure his party faces is truly something to behold.

“His desperate attempts to smear Labour at every turn smack of a leader and a party who know that their time is up.

“Scotland deserves better than the scandal-hit SNP and the failing Tories.

“The people of Scotland are crying out for change and Scottish Labour is working hard to deliver the change that Scotland needs.”

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