Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused of move 'out of Farage playbook' in standing for election

Douglas Ross is to stand as a candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East

Douglas Ross has been accused of a move “straight out of the Farage playbook” after the Scottish Tories leader performed a U-turn to declare he was standing in the general election despite previously ruling himself out of contention.

The Scottish Conservative leader will run as the candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, as he was accused of a “new low” after David Duguid was de-selected as the candidate on health grounds.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Duguid, who has been the MP for Banff and Buchan since 2017, is receiving treatment from the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Spinal Injury Unit and is not in a position to stand for election.

The decision came despite previous assurances from Mr Ross, who was the MP for Moray in the last Parliament, that he would stand down from Westminster to focus on his duties at Holyrood.

Mr Ross said: “Over the last 12 hours I have thought long and hard and spoken to my wife, family, colleagues and local members. The boundary changes mean this constituency includes parts of my former constituency Moray and the council ward I served back in 2007.

“This constituency will be competitive, hard-fought and close between the Tories and the SNP, so I have decided I need to lead from the front so I am putting myself forward as the candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East to beat the SNP in this crucial constituency.”

Nominations for candidates close on Friday. Mr Ross, who is also an MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said he would not resign as Scottish Conservative leader if he lost this election bid, stressing he was “absolutely committed” to working as an MP, MSP and party leader after July 4.

Mr Ross also confirmed he would continue to work as a football linesman as well, regardless of the outcome of the election.

However, Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes described the decision to stand as “another broken promise” from the Scottish Tories leader and said Mr Ross had “betrayed” Mr Duguid.

“He [Mr Ross] said he wanted to focus on Holyrood in 2026, but it looks like his focus is anywhere but Holyrood,” Ms Forbes said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The bigger concern I have is that there is a local Conservative that was obviously supported by local Conservative members, currently recovering in hospital, who has been betrayed - ejected from the seat in order to allow Douglas Ross to stand. That raises profoundly big questions, I think, for the Conservatives and also their commitment to the North East.

“I think this is a new low. To quote one of Douglas Ross’s own colleagues, this is straight out of the Farage playbook. I do not think it portrays the Conservatives in any decent light.”

Asked if the Conservatives had performed a “stitch-up” to let Mr Ross take the seat, Ms Forbes said: “It doesn't look very good.”

During his speech, Mr Ross had paid tribute to Mr Duguid and wished him a full recovery, but said the party’s management board had concluded the MP couldn’t continue on as a candidate due to his “significant” health issues. Mr Ross was also asked if he had spoken personally to the former UK government minister about the decision, but said it has been “difficult to speak to David Duguid because of his health issues”. He said: “I’ve been sending him messages and working with his team”.

It is understood Mr Duguid was visited by party officials twice in the past week, and there were concerns about how the stress of campaigning could impact his recovery.

Mr Ross is a member of the party’s management board, but has not participated in any board discussions since the general election was called, and didn’t take part in the board’s decision regarding Mr Duguid.

Posting on X, Mr Duguid said: “Last week I informed you of my rehabilitation progress and how I was looking forward to campaigning (albeit without knocking on doors) for the upcoming election.

“I am pleased to say that my recovery programme is well on schedule, thanks to the excellent staff in Queen Elizabeth Hospital Spinal Injury Unit.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Notwithstanding this, and despite my having been adopted by our local members, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party has informed me tonight that they have decided not to put me forward as their chosen candidate for Aberdeenshire and Moray East.”

Mr Duguid had represented Banff and Buchan at the House of Commons since 2017.

Mr Ross’s decision to run also raised the ire of opposition parties, with Scottish Labour deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie saying it was clear “there is no promise flip-flop Ross won’t break”.

She said: “Douglas Ross is treating his constituents with contempt by refusing to give up one of his three jobs and his shoddy treatment of his own colleague shows how morally bankrupt the Tories are.

“The Scottish Tories can no longer attempt to distance themselves from the carnage we have seen in Downing Street – Douglas Ross has always been right at the heart of this rotten Tory Government.”

Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie insisted being an MSP was a full-time job. “Douglas Ross’s commitment to increasing the number of jobs he has is pretty boundless,” Mr Harvie said.

“People up and down the country are living with the cost-of-living crisis, they are living with the results of low pay that the Tory Government presides over and yet someone like Douglas Ross thinks he can never have enough high-paid jobs. It’s pretty shameless.”

Comments

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.