Tory MSP quits front bench over travel restrictions

Oliver Mundell said he could not support travel restrictions which he believes will impact his constituents.

Tory MSP quits front bench over travel restrictions STV News
Quit: Oliver Mundell leaves front bench over travel restrictions.

A Tory MSP has left the front bench after he defied the party whip and voted against new coronavirus restrictions.

Oliver Mundell, who served as rural economy and tourism spokesman for the party since Douglas Ross took over, said he could not vote to support travel restrictions which he believes will impact the ability of his constituents in Dumfriesshire to cross the border.

Regulations published on Thursday and due to come into force on Friday make it an offence to travel outside Scotland, except for specific reasons including work, essential shopping and exercise.

A motion in the Scottish Parliament, which did not allow MSPs to knock down the changes, was passed by 99 votes to 23.

After the vote was finalised, a statement from Mr Mundell announced his resignation, but committed his continued support to the party and its leader.

Mr Mundell, the son of former Scottish secretary David Mundell, said: “On this occasion it was sadly not possible to balance the very specific needs of my constituents with the need to take a collective view as a party that works for the whole country.

“I understand the difficult position that puts colleagues in and I have therefore regrettably offered Douglas Ross my resignation as a party spokesperson. I continue to fully support him and the party.”

The resignation comes less than 24 hours before Mr Ross’ first conference as leader, which is due to kick off on Friday afternoon before the leader gives a speech on Saturday along with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack.

Despite his violation of the whip, the leader praised Mr Mundell’s commitment to his constituents and his ability as an MSP.

He said: “Oliver always puts the needs of his constituents first and while I’m very disappointed to see him leave the shadow cabinet, I appreciate that he is only doing what he feels is best for his local area.

“He has been a very capable member of the Shadow Cabinet and I thank him for all his work for the party. I know he will continue to be a great Scottish Conservative representative for Dumfriesshire.”