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Douglas Ross to resign as leader of Scottish Conservatives

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By Mary McCoolBBC Scotland News • David Wallace LockhartBBC Scotland Political Correspondent

PA Media Douglas RossPA Media

Douglas Ross has announced he will resign as leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

He will carry on in the role until after the election and will also resign as an MSP if he is re-elected to Westminster.

It comes amid a row over Mr Ross standing as a candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East instead of David Duguid, who has been in hospital and was effectively de-selected.

Mr Ross said he originally thought he could continue to serve as an MSP and MP as well as party leader, but said “on reflection, that is not feasible”.

He was the only MSP to also serve as an MP in the current Holyrood session before the UK Parliament dissolved.

A Scottish Conservative source told BBC News that Mr Ross had come to the realisation that the party’s MSPs would not “put up” with him serving as both an MP and an MSP.

They added that the reaction to him announcing plans to stand in place of Mr Duguid was another factor.

Mr Ross said he was committed to “fighting and winning” the seat.

He said: “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 4 July, 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.”

It comes after the Sunday Mail reported that advisers to Mr Ross had raised concerns over 28 parliamentary travel claims which may have been combined with his work as a football linesman.

Mr Ross said the expenses claims were approved by the independent parliamentary body IPSA and he would have “no issue” with the expenses being examined for a second time.

Corr box

When a party leader announces their resignation in the middle of an election campaign, you know something has gone very wrong.

For Douglas Ross, it was replacing the hospitalised David Duguid as his party’s candidate in Aberdeenshire North and Moray West at the general election.

Some were uneasy about the optics of the party leader swooping in when a colleague was ill.

But what had gone down really badly with Conservative MSPs at Holyrood was the plan to continue to try and carry on as both an MP and an MSP.

Douglas Ross had previously promised he wouldn’t do that.

One of his Scottish Tory colleagues told me last week it had been received like a bucket of cold sick.

The pressure piled up on Douglas Ross. This may well have been intensified by a newspaper story about his expenses at the weekend.

This will impact on the UK-wide campaign too. Rishi Sunak won’t have factored in his Scottish leader calling it a day in the run-up to polling.

If Mr Ross is re-elected to Westminster he’ll leave Holyrood. Some of his colleagues felt that’s where his heart has really always been.

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