Two former SNP leadership candidates have hit back at claims Douglas Ross invited them to vote with the Scottish Conservatives in order to vent their frustrations at Holyrood’s Bute House agreement.
Kate Forbes and Ash Regan rejected the Tory leader’s suggestion they had been encouraged to vote against the deal with the Greens during “discussions” with SNP MSPs.
Both were openly critical of the arrangement during the contest in which they lost out to Humza Yousaf to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the party and Scottish Government.
Ross told STV News at the Conservative party conference in Manchester he had been “encouraged” by the response to his suggestion.
But Forbes claimed her interactions with the opposition leader had never been more than a “passing hello”.
Ross said: “I made a very open invitation a few weeks ago to SNP backbenchers who were frustrated with Humza Yousaf’s Government and the Bute House agreement with the Greens, to work with me to vote down some of the proposals that are really damaging to individuals and communities across Scotland.
“I’ve been encouraged by some of the reaction I have had from some SNP MSPs, that shows real frustration within their party, but ultimately it will be up to them.
“They can speak publicly or speak privately, but if they vote with Humza Yousaf and the Scottish Greens which prioritises independence above anything else.”
When pressed, he refused to give details of the MSPs he claimed to have spoken to, though also claimed he had heard from disillusioned SNP activists in his own Moray constituency who objected to policies put forward thanks to the agreement.
“I’m not going to get into numbers, but I think it is important that people understand this is happening,” he said.
“There could be a growing concern and consensus within the Scottish Parliament that the Bute House agreement is not the right approach.”
He added: “I think even if you go beyond the parliamentarians, I hear from SNP members locally in my own area how unhappy they are with the direction of the Scottish Government since the Greens joined.
“In Moray, the dualling of the A96 is a big concern, but due to the Greens being anti-car, that is now under threat.”
The deal has been criticised by some within the SNP, most notably the recently-suspended party stalwart, Fergus Ewing.
He pointed to examples including short-term lets legislation as an example of a policy that had split the Holyrood party.
But posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, Forbes wrote: “Douglas ‘Three Jobs’ Ross hardly spends any time in [Scottish Parliament] or speaking to his own party colleagues.
“Which is only one of the many, many reasons why I’ve never said more than a passing hello to him since he was elected.
“Conference hyperbole compensating for a failed Tory [Government].”
Regan added: “Constructive dialogue within the SNP is essential for growth; but let’s be very clear: the future of our party, and of Scotland itself, is too important to be swayed by backroom talks with those who don’t share our vision for an independent nation.”
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