Tories insist 'duty of care' to deselected David Duguid as pressure mounts on Douglas Ross

Douglas Ross announced he’d be running for a Westminster seat on Wednesday.

The deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives has insisted the party has a “duty of care” to deselected candidate David Duguid as she dismissed claims Douglas Ross’ leadership has been “significantly undermined” by the row.

Meghan Gallacher yesterday praised her boss for his leadership as she campaigned alongside former Union Unit head Luke Graham.

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Mr Ross came under fire after he announced his candidacy in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency last week after Mr Duguid was blocked over his health. The move saw Mr Ross U-turning on his previous pledge to give up his Westminster seat.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross in the port of Nigg near Inverness.Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross in the port of Nigg near Inverness.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross in the port of Nigg near Inverness.

Mr Duguid had hoped to contest the seat, which replaced his previous Banff and Buchan constituency and part of Mr Ross’s former Moray seat under new boundary rules.

However, he is currently unwell in hospital and the party’s membership board de-selected him as a candidate. Mr Duguid issued a statement on social media over the weekend to deny that he was “seriously ill” and said no-one from the management board had visited him before the decision.

First Minister John Swinney yesterday accused Mr Ross “naked self-interest”.

Defending her colleague on the campaign trail in Perth, Ms Gallacher said it was a “difficult situation” to deselect Mr Duguid, but insisted the management board who took the decision had a “duty of care” to the former MP.

She said: “Douglas Ross always leads from the front you can see that by his leadership in the Scottish Parliament. It was only last month – due to Douglas Ross – that Humza Yousaf had to resign.

“We’re now all focused on taking forward the general election.”

Ms Gallacher added the party was focused on particularly taking seats from the SNP.

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However, the First Minister dismissed the defence, suggesting Mr Ross should resign.

He said: “I think his ability to continue as Scottish Conservative leader is significantly undermined by his behaviour.

“Douglas Ross has no credibility whatsoever – he has been telling us all that he wants to be leader of the Scottish Conservative Party so that he can become the first minister of Scotland.

“But he is now taking a decision to try to get back to the House of Commons so he is just exercising constant naked self-interest in the decisions that he takes.”

Mr Duguid has denied claims he is “unable to stand” in the election.

A Scottish Conservative spokesperson said: “The party management board took an incredibly difficult decision to conclude that David Duguid could not stand at this election for health reasons.

“David has been a fantastic local MP for the last seven years and Douglas worked incredibly well with him as the neighbouring MP in Moray.

“Everyone wishes David well in his continued recovery and looks forward to his return to frontline politics.

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“Given the short timeframe to ensure we had a candidate in this key seat, Douglas decided he needed to lead from the front and stop this area being represented by an SNP MP who would only focus on independence, rather than local people’s real priorities.”

Mr Swinney also said yesterday Mr Ross had “serious” questions to answer on whether he used Westminster expenses to travel for his job as a football linesman.

Reports in the Sunday Mail claimed Mr Ross’ advisers flagged concerns over 28 parliamentary travel claims which may have been combined with his work as a linesman.

Mr Swinney described the claims as “very significant” and demanded Mr Ross explains the expenses in detail.

Under UK parliamentary rules, MPs can only claim travel from their home airport – which was either Inverness or Aberdeen in Mr Ross’s case when he was MP for Moray.

Mr Ross told the paper it was “not possible” to go from London to a football game as he would not have had his referee kit with him.

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.”

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