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Douglas Ross ‘may have to step down’ as Scottish Tory leader – party sources

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It comes after Ross decided to run in the General Election in the place of a candidate deemed not well enough to stand by his party.

The Scottish Conservative management board – of which Ross is a member – ruled former UK Government minister David Duguid is not medically well enough to stand for the party in the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat.

But Duguid, who was taken into hospital in April, insisted in a post on social media that claims he is “unable to stand” due to ill health are “simply incorrect”.

Rival parties have claimed Ross has “betrayed” a colleague by putting himself forward to stand in the seat – a decision which came after he previously said he would quit Westminster to focus on Holyrood and his post as party leader in Scotland.

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But BBC Scotland News has now reported of discontent and a “swell of opinion” within the Scottish Conservatives, including that Ross may have to step down as leader regardless of whether he wins the seat or not.

The BBC have reported that one senior Tory said they did not believe Ross’s position was tenable.

“The handling has been so bad,” they said.

“The optics are terrible. And his judgement is sorely lacking.”

Another Tory source told the BBC: “If he wins the mood will be that he needs to go as no one can adequately cover all those jobs.

“If he loses along with a poor result then he will be blamed as well.”

Scottish Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes branded Ross’s behaviour as being “straight out of the Farage playbook”, while Scottish Labour deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie said it showed there is “no promise flip-flop Ross won’t break”.

Ross said the “very unique circumstances” and timings meant the party had just over 24 hours to get another candidate in place, so he decided to put himself forward.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday that boundary changes mean a part of the seat includes his former Moray constituency, which he has represented in the UK Parliament since 2017.

He added: “I want to lead from the front, this is a really important seat.

“It’s one of the many key seats across Scotland where it is a straight choice between the Scottish Conservatives and the SNP.”

He said Duguid had been an “absolute champion” for the area and the Conservative party management board had had a “difficult decision” to make.

Ross said: “The party management board had to look at the situation right now, the situation with David’s health, his recovery, that was at the heart of the decision the management board took.

“It was a very difficult decision, and I understand how difficult it has been for David, for his family, for his staff. I have been in touch with his office.”

Asked if he has spoken to Duguid since he put himself forward for the seat, Ross said he had “reached out” to him, adding that “he will maybe speak when he is able to and he feels able to speak”.

Pressed on whether he had messaged Duguid or tried to speak to him, Ross added: “We have done both, but given he is in hospital it is not straightforward.

“I have been in conversation with David’s office and such like, relaying as much support as we can.”

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