Tory Sleaze Row: Douglas Ross asked three times before backing Boris Johnson as Prime Minister amid Owen Paterson row

Douglas Ross was asked three times before confirming he continues to have confidence in Boris Johnson as Conservative leader and Prime Minister amid the continued fallout around Owen Paterson and corruption scandals.

Douglas Ross was pressed on the sleaze row engulfing the Tory party
Douglas Ross was pressed on the sleaze row engulfing the Tory party

The Scottish Tory leader, who failed to register £30,000 worth of second job earnings from his role as an MSP and as a linesman, said the Paterson affair had been an “extremely poorly handled episode”.

Asked whether he still had confidence in Boris Johnson, Mr Ross said: “The Prime Minister has accepted he got this badly wrong and it has been an extremely poorly handled episode way back to the Owen Paterson affair, I broke the party whip because I couldn’t support what he and his government were asking colleagues to do.

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"I think what we have seen this week is parliament uniting to say yes, we need to look at this.”

While being interviewed on the BBC’s The Sunday Show, it took three questions and being told to give a yes or no answer before Mr Ross backed Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservatives, answering “yes” to the question of whether the Prime Minister is still the right man to lead the party.

Mr Ross added: “[It’s been] really damaging to the party north and south of the border and I think politics in general.

"No party has been immune from the criticism in this and that’s why I think it is right that parliament came together this week, there was no opposition to the proposals that the government put forward to the standards committee to look into, that was passed with no votes against.”

The Scottish Conservative leader also outlined his opposition to what he labelled “paid consultancy and lobbying” in Westminster, but defended MPs and MSPs who work as NHS frontline staff, saying it is “helpful at times” for legislators to have experience of what they are debating.

He added: “No company or business or organisation should have an inside track into the workings of parliament and think they can, whether it is true or not, get any preferential treatment as a result of that.”

Mr Ross labelled the £82,000 salary for MPs as “extremely generous” and said MPs who believe there is a need for second jobs to supplement that salary because it is too low “shouldn’t be a Conservative MP” or an MP from any party.

He refused to comment on whether Geoffrey Cox, the Tory grandee who earned hundreds of thousands of pounds working as a lawyer in the Caribbean during lockdown, should resign as an MP.

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He also said he would not give up his job as a linesman, saying that: “MPs/MSPs/Councillors are allowed a life outside politics and I think if we do away with that, that’s a greater risk in encouraging people to come forward for elected office.”

The comments from Douglas Ross come as Scottish Labour said they would bring forward a ban to second jobs for MSPs if the SNP fails to do so.

Neil Bibby, the party’s business manager, said action in Holyrood is “more urgent than ever” and a “serious discussion” around the issue was needed.

He said: “ The role of MSPs should be to fully focus on their constituents and the practice of working second jobs should be banned. In the absence of leadership from the Scottish Government, Labour will bring forward a bill to change the law.

“There needs to be some exemptions, particularly for those MSPs who require to continue employment to maintain registration such as medical professionals, but in general, this bill will sound the death knell for second jobs as a means to line ones pockets.

“It’s high time this gravy train was ended. This proposed bill will ensure that all our MSPs are working full-time for the people of Scotland, not private profit.

“I hope other parties will see the need for action.”

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Asked earlier in the week whether they would back a move to ban second jobs in Holyrood, the SNP said the existing rules were already stricter than in Westminster.

A spokesperson for the party said: “The Tory corruption scandal highlights a completely broken Westminster system – from peerages for multimillion pound Tory donors to Douglas Ross failing to claim a sum of earnings greater than the average salary in Scotland.

"Any proposals concerning MSPs would need to be looked at on their merits – but Holyrood is already far stricter than Westminster, which continues to enable Tory sleaze on a vast scale.”

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