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Douglas Ross to resign as leader of Scottish Conservatives after general election

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Mr Ross’ announcement comes following criticism over the deselection of David Duguid as a general election candidate as well as amid reports he used Westminster expenses to travel in his role as a football linesman.

By Jenness Mitchell, Scotland reporter @Jenster13


Douglas Ross has announced he is stepping down as leader of the Scottish Conservatives after the 4 July election.

It comes following criticism over the deselection of David Duguid as a general election candidate as well as amid reports Mr Ross used Westminster expenses to travel in his role as a football linesman.

Mr Ross intends to continue his general election campaign as he seeks to win the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat as an MP.

In a statement released on Monday, he announced he will also resign as an MSP if re-elected to Westminster.

Mr Ross said: “I have served as MP, MSP and leader for over three years now and believed I could continue to do so if re-elected to Westminster, but on reflection, that is not feasible.

“I am committed to fighting and winning the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency. Should I be given the honour to represent the people and communities of this new seat, they should know being their MP would receive my complete focus and attention.

“I will therefore stand down as leader following the election on July 4, once a successor is elected. Should I win the seat, I will also stand down as an MSP to make way for another Scottish Conservative representative in Holyrood.

“My party has a chance to beat the SNP in key seats up and down Scotland, including in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East. We must now come together and fully focus on doing exactly that.”

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Mr Ross has made the announcement in the wake of a row over his decision to stand in the Aberdeen North and Moray East constituency.

Former Tory UK government minister Mr Duguid had wanted to contest the seat, but he is currently unwell in hospital which led to the party’s management board deselecting him as a candidate.



Image:
Douglas Ross at a Scottish Premiership match in 2020. Pic: PA

Travel expenses row

Mr Ross’ resignation also comes amid reports by the Sunday Mail that concerns had been raised over 28 parliamentary travel claims which may have been combined with his work as a football linesman.

Under UK parliamentary rules, MPs can only claim travel from their home airport – which was either Inverness or Aberdeen when Mr Ross was MP for Moray.

They can also claim for “diverted” journeys but must supply detailed notes on the diversion.

The newspaper reported that Mr Ross’ aides raised the alarm in November 2021 over expense claims which included a £58 parking fee at Inverness Airport in July 2018 while parliament was in recess.

It also stated a £43 rail travel from Heathrow to central London was claimed the day after Mr Ross was a linesman in a match in Iceland.

Claims also include that he expensed a flight from London to Glasgow and £109 parking.

On 1 November 2020 it is alleged he claimed £48.99 for parking the day he refereed a Celtic game.

Mr Ross said it was “not possible” to go from London to a football game as he would not have had his referee kit with him.

Mr Ross stressed he has only ever claimed expenses related to his role as an MP and the costs of getting to and from Westminster.

He said the expenses claims were approved by the independent parliamentary body IPSA and he would have “no issue with them being scrutinised again”.

Mr Ross was extremely critical of Michael Matheson after the former SNP health minister was found to have breached the code of conduct in regards to his £11,000 iPad data roaming bill.

Mr Ross called for Mr Matheson, who has been suspended, to resign as Falkirk West MSP.

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‘These dodgy claims need an urgent explanation’

In the wake of concerns raised over Mr Ross’ own expenses, First Minister John Swinney said he did not want to “jump to conclusions” but stated the “story raises very significant and serious issues of the potential misuse of public funds”.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie has also called for an “urgent explanation”.

She said: “These dodgy claims need an urgent explanation and Douglas Ross’ weak excuses don’t provide much reassurance.

“After his response to Michael Matheson’s iPad scandal, it would be the height of hypocrisy if Douglas Ross has also been attempting to rip off taxpayers.”

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‘Rat deserting a sinking ship’

Former first minister and Alba Party leader Alex Salmond said Mr Ross is “totally devoid of honour”.

He added: “This is the first case of a rat deserting a sinking ship whilst simultaneously trying to clamber aboard a gravy train.

“Douglas Ross requires to resign as candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East where he stabbed David Duguid in the back.”

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he respected Mr Ross’ decision, adding that he had a record to be “proud of” as Scottish Tory leader.

Mr Sunak said: “You can read Douglas’ statement about his reasons, and I respect his decision.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with him over the time that I’ve been prime minister. He has been a steadfast champion of the union.

“He and I have worked together on two freeports for Scotland, attracting jobs and investment, standing up to the SNP’s misguided gender recognition reforms and also being unashamedly champions of Scotland’s North Sea energy industry, the only party to have consistently done that.

“So, I think that’s a track record that Douglas can be proud of, and I’ve enjoyed working with him, but I respect his decision.”

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