Scottish Tory leader: Cummings should consider position

Jackson Carlaw said the scandal over Dominic Cummings' lockdown trip to Durham had become too big a distraction.

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw has said top Number 10 adviser Dominic Cummings should consider his position.

The Scottish Tory leader said revelations about Mr Cummings’ 260-mile trip from London to Durham during lockdown had become too much of a distraction for Boris Johnson.

He said he had made his views clear to Downing Street, on a day which has seen senior Conservative figures north and south of the border call for the special adviser to resign or be sacked.

But he stopped short of saying the Prime Minister should sack his chief adviser, stating he would not “issue instructions” to Johnson.

Moray MP Douglas Ross quit as Scotland Office minister over the scandal, saying he could not “in good faith” look his constituents in the eye and defend Mr Cummings’ actions.

Carlaw had previously said the decision over the special adviser’s job was a matter for the PM and that the country should refocus on the fight against coronavirus.

On Monday, in an extraordinary Downing Street press conference, Mr Cummings said he had no regrets, while the Prime Minister later continued to insist his adviser had acted legally and responsibly.

Mr Cummings also confirmed during his period of self-isolation in Durham he had driven 30 miles to beauty spot Barnard Castle with his wife and child on his wife’s birthday, claiming he had done it to test his eyesight.

He said he had been cleared to return to work in London, but wanted to check that he was capable of the long drive as he was having problems with his eyes.

Johnson defended this explanation as “plausible”, saying he too believed his vision has suffered since he contracted coronavirus.

But Scottish Conservative frontbenchers Adam Tomkins, Murdo Fraser and Donald Cameron have also sided with Ross, with Tomkins and Fraser explicitly calling for Mr Cummings to go.

Speaking on Tuesday, Carlaw told STV News: “I’m very sorry that Douglas Ross has left the government, he was a huge asset to the Government and to the fight against the virus, and he will be a big loss for Scotland.

“But I fully respect and understand the decision he took.

“Over the course of the weekend I was really having to come to a view on all of this in the absence of the facts.

“The Prime Minister had those facts, so I very much felt it was a decision for him.”

The Scottish Tory leader continued: “Yesterday, Mr Cummings spoke and we got a version of events from him, some people will have found that understandable.

“But I think the reality is this is now consuming the entire debate, distracting away from the principle message and the fight against the virus, and if I were in his position, if it were me I would be considering my position.”

Asked if the PM should sack Mr Cummings if he does not quit, Carlaw said: “I’m not going to issue instructions to the Prime Minister.

“But given the furore, given the distraction this is, given the distraction of the Prime Minister on this issue, if I were Mr Cummings I would be considering my position.

“I think it is a distraction to the Prime Minister, I think it is diluting the message, I think all across the country our focus has to be on tackling the virus.”

Carlaw said his view had “been made clear to Downing Street”.

He has become the latest senior Conservative to call for the senior Downing Street adviser’s job.

Earlier, Tomkins posted a tweet in response to Ross’ resignation.

The MSP said: “To lose (Douglas Ross) from Government is a disaster. His was one of clearest voices for the Union in Government. It shows exactly why Cummings should be sacked. I suspect others will follow where Douglas has led.”

Cameron, the party’s shadow Scottish finance secretary, said “well done, my friend” in response to the MP’s resignation.

Following Ross’s resignation, Scottish secretary Alister Jack said: “I would like to thank Douglas Ross for his contribution as a minister at the Scotland Office.

“I know he will continue to be a dedicated and hard-working constituency MP for Moray.”

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