Douglas Ross: who is Scottish Conservative leader - and why is his party planning vote of no confidence in Sturgeon?

Mr Ross is a qualified football referee as well as MP for Moray

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has said his party will press ahead with plans to bring forward a no confidence vote in Nicola Sturgeon.

Mr Ross confirmed that a timeline for a vote of no confidence in the First Minister would be announced on Tuesday 16 March.

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He accused Ms Sturgeon of lying to the Scottish Parliament over when she first knew of allegations of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond - which if proven would be a breach of the ministerial code.

Douglas Ross confirmed that a timeline for a vote of no confidence in the First Minister would soon be announced (Getty Images)
Douglas Ross confirmed that a timeline for a vote of no confidence in the First Minister would soon be announced (Getty Images)

It comes as the Tories previously failed in their bid to oust Deputy First Minister John Swinney after he did not release legal advice to the government over Salmond’s judicial review, despite two votes by MSPs in Holyrood for him to do so.

So, who is Douglas Ross - and what has he said about the plans for a vote of no confidence in Nicola Sturgeon?

Here is everything you need to know.

Who is Douglas Ross?

Douglas Ross, 38, was born in Aberdeen and attended Forres Academy and the Scottish Agricultural College.

Before his move into politics, he worked as a dairyman at local farms.

In 2007, he represented the Fochabers-Lhanbryde ward as a member of Moray Council.

He then stood for the Conservatives in a series of elections for Westminster and Holyrood, and became an MSP via the Highlands and Islands regional list in 2016.

During his time as an MSP, Mr Ross backed Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

But his time as Holyrood was short lived, as he won a seat at Westminster in the following year’s general election.

In an unlikely victory, Mr Ross took the Moray constituency from the SNP’s deputy leader Angus Robertson.

But there was controversy during his first term as an MP, when he apologised for saying “tougher enforcement against Gypsy travellers" would be his priority if he ever became prime minister.

Yet he retained his Westminster seat in the 2019 General Election, narrowly defeating SNP challenger Laura Mitchell with a majority of 519.

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Why did he resign as Scotland Office minister?

Mr Ross was then named Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland - a post he quit in May 2020 amid the row over Mr Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings.

Cummings defended travelling 260 miles from London to County Durham during the first Covid lockdown, but Mr Ross said he had “trouble” with parts of his explanation and became the first government minister to resign over the incident.

He was announced as the new leader of the Scottish Conservatives in August 2020, following Jackson Carlaw’s resignation after only six months in the position.

But despite his rise through the ranks of the Tories, Mr Ross has not always supported the party.

Instead, he was a member of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and gave the party his first vote.

Is Douglas Ross still a football referee?

Mr Ross has juggled his time as a member of parliament with a career as a qualified football referee.

He has acted as a linesman in many high profile fixtures, including in the Scottish Cup finals and Champions League matches.

But the Tory leader has been accused of prioritising his job as a linesman over his duties as an MP.

In 2017, he missed a vital vote on benefits cuts while he refereed a Champions League fixture between FC Barcelona and Greek outfit Olympiacos.

He ultimately said he would not accept refereeing appointments while parliament was sitting - a decision that removed him from the running to officiate at the 2018 World Cup.

Mr Ross has said he plans to continue as a professional linesman as well as leading the Scottish Conservatives.

Why are the Tories planning a vote of no confidence in Nicola Sturgeon?

The Conservative MP has insisted that Ms Sturgeon lied to parliament over when she first knew about allegations of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond.

Mr Ross said his party would look to oust the First Minister in the final weeks of the parliamentary session despite the tight timescale.

Ms Sturgeon has referred herself for investigation to the independent adviser on the ministerial code, James Hamilton, who is currently looking into the allegations.

In a speech to his party’s conference on Monday 15 March, Mr Ross said: “The evidence against Nicola Sturgeon is overwhelming and mounting up every day.

“If we allow her to get away with this, then we say that the truth is worthless in Scottish politics.

“We can’t let more than £500,000 wasted, lies to Parliament and the mother of all cover-ups, go without challenge.”

He went on to urge opposition parties in Holyrood to back the vote, saying: “So, we will bring that vote of no confidence in the First Minister.

“Win or lose – we will put all the damage that she has done out there for all to see.

“We will not hold back. From now to May, we’re not going to back off an inch.

“I would urge the other parties to get behind us, to stand up for truth, stand up for our parliament, stand up to the SNP.

“We have the votes, don’t cave in again, don’t duck this chance to be counted,

“Don’t let Nicola Sturgeon get away with this.”

Following his speech, Mr Ross told journalists that a timeline for a vote of no confidence in Mr Sturgeon would soon be announced.