Scottish Tory leader urges transparency amid lobbying row

Douglas Ross highlighted communications between the PM and Chancellor and business leaders.

Scottish Tory leader urges transparency amid lobbying row PA Ready

Concerns raised over communications between senior UK Government officials and business leaders “cannot be allowed to continue”, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has said.

A number of parliamentary and independent investigations have been set up after communications between Chancellor Rishi Sunak and former prime minister David Cameron about Greensill Capital came to light.

The Chancellor said in a text to Cameron he had “pushed” Treasury officials to consider proposals that could save the firm, which eventually collapsed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also accused of approving “tax breaks by text” after he told billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson the Chancellor would “fix” a tax issue for his staff working on making ventilators in the early part of the pandemic.

Ross said he believes governments should operate in “the most transparent and open way”.

He added: “The serious concerns that have been raised just in the last few weeks cannot be allowed to continue.”

Ross, a former minister in the Scotland Office who resigned from that role last year over the lockdown rules breach by Johnson’s then chief adviser Dominic Cummings, also said he is “almost certain” he was never lobbied by text during his time in Government.

“I never received a text message directly from a business leader,” he said.

“I would say to the best of my knowledge, I can’t remember every single text message I received, but I would be almost certain that I never received a direct message, certainly not asking me to do anything – maybe just to set up a meeting that would be with officials.”

He added he was trying to be “categorical” in his denial, but could not be fully sure such communications never occurred.

As the UK Government comes under ever more scrutiny in Westminster over lobbying, Mr Ross was asked if he fears the issue could impact on the Tories’ chances in the Scottish Parliament election next month.

“I think people can see this issue is being dealt with as a matter of priority with a huge amount of seriousness attached to it,” he said.

“Given the level and number of investigations that are taking place, but it’s also right that we wait for these investigations to return their reports, because they will all be looking at this issue in the round, but from separate different angles and I think it’s right that we see the conclusions of those inquiries.”

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