Tory MP Douglas Ross resigns as minister over Cummings row

The Scotland Office minister said he had 'trouble' with the special adviser's explanation for a 260-mile lockdown trip.

Douglas Ross has resigned from the UK Government.
Douglas Ross has resigned from the UK Government.

Scots Tory MP Douglas Ross has resigned as a UK Government minister over the Dominic Cummings row.

Mr Cummings, a special adviser to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, travelled more than 260 miles to his parents’ home during lockdown after his wife developed Covid-19 symptoms.

But in an extraordinary Downing Street press conference on Monday, he said on Monday that he had no regrets, while Johnson said he acted legally and responsibly.

The adviser 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.

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Mr Cummings 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.

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

Ross, a minister in the Scotland Office, said there were “aspects of the explanation” given my Mr Cummings he had “trouble with”.

He said he could not “in good faith” tell his constituents who could not care for sick relatives or say goodbye to dying ones while obeying lockdown rules that Mr Cummings acted appropriately.

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The first resignation over the allegations rocking the UK Government came as Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove sought to defend his longstanding ally.

But senior Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins said it was a “disaster” Ross had decided to quit, saying it showed “exactly why Cummings should be sacked”.

He said the Moray MP had been one of the “clearest voices for the union in government”.

Meanwhile, Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said he respected Ross’ decision, saying it was a “difficult situation”.

In his resignation statement, Ross said that “while the intentions may have been well-meaning”, Mr Cummings’ interpretation of the rules was “not shared by the vast majority of people”.

The Moray MP wrote: “I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government.

“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”

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He said he had waited for all the information to come out before making his decision to quit government and stressed he had never met Mr Cummings.

“As a father myself, my instinct is to always do what is best for my son and wife,” he added.

“We have been fortunate not to have caught this awful virus but, if we did, we are prepared to follow the government advice and stay at home to contain this virus.”

Ross continued: “This is not a decision I have reached quickly. I have waited to hear all of the information and thought long and hard over this.

“I realise both the immediate and long-term implications of my decision to resign from government.

“While it has been a great privilege to serve as a minister, my first duty is to be a representative and I feel I can best represent my Moray constituents and many across the country who have expressed their feelings about this by resigning as a minister.”

Commenting on Ross’ resignation, Carlaw said: “I accept Douglas’ position and respect the decision he has come to.

“This is a difficult situation for many, and people will arrive at different judgements.

“Douglas will be a huge loss to government and I thank him for all he’s done at the Scotland Office.”

The Scottish Tory leader added: “I am in no doubt that he will continue to serve his Moray constituents with diligence and commitment, as he has done since first being elected.”

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