Ross to stand down as Scottish Tory leader after election

Douglas Ross

DOUGLAS Ross is set to quit as leader of the Scottish Conservative Party just days after he controversially replaced David Duguid as the party’s candidate for the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency.

Mr Ross had previously said on numerous occasions that he would be standing down as an MP at the next election to focus on leading his party at Holyrood, but announced his intention to stand on Thursday morning.

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Pressure has since mounted on the Highland MSP, with reports alleging that he used Westminster travel expenses to help fund his job as a linesman, though he has refuted these claims.

Mr Ross has also stated that he will stand down as an MSP should he win in next month’s election.

Mr Duguid, who was expected to win the new seat in July, has been in hospital since April due to serious health issues.

The former Banff and Buchan MP spent four weeks in the intensive care unit and is now recovering in Glasgow, where he has been able to get “out and about” again, he said on X.

Despite announcing his intention to stand again, the Scottish Conservative board chose to replace him with Mr Ross.

In a statement released on Monday, the party leader 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.”

It’s believed that his resignation is the first time that a UK party leader has quit during an election campaign.

Expenses scandal

Little over a fortnight ago, the Tories targeted former health secretary Michael Matheson over an expenses scandal that’s resulted in the MSP losing his cabinet position and facing a 27-day suspension.

The Scottish Conservatives also lodged a motion at Holyrood calling on a debate around Mr Matheson’s resignation.

Somewhat ironically, it now seems that an expenses scandal has been the final straw for Mr Ross’s premiership.

A report in the Sunday Mail claimed that the former Moray MP’s advisors raised alarm bells about 28 parliamentary travel claims which may have been combined with his work as an MP.

It’s reported that Mr Ross expensed a £58 parking charge at Inverness Airport when the Commons was in recess in 2018.

A £43 rail fare was also expensed from Heathrow to central London that day after he ran the line at a match in Iceland.

It’s also alleged that, on November 1, 2020, he claimed £48.99 for parking on the same day he officiated a Celtic game.

Mr Ross has refuted the claims. He said: “I have only ever claimed expenses related to my role as a member of parliament and the costs of getting me to and from Westminster.

“These have all been agreed by IPSA, the independent body that oversees MPs’ expenses, but I would have no issue with them being scrutinised again.”

The process to replace Mr Ross isn’t expected to begin until after July’s general election, and could take up to four months to complete.

Russell Findlay, the party’s justice spokesperson, is said to have a number of internal supporters.

Current deputy leader Megan Gallagher run, though no MSP is expected to announce their candidacy until after the election.

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