A Tory who will miss a Commons vote on welfare policy to officiate at a Champions League match is “doing a good job” in his role as both an MP and a referee, one of his colleagues has insisted.
Conservative Douglas Ross will not take part in a debate and vote on universal credit because he will be running the line at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona as the home side take on the Greek team Olympiacos.
The game kicks off at 7.45pm UK time - 45 minutes after MPs at Westminster are expected to vote on a Labour motion calling for the controversial rollout of the new benefit to be postponed.
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The Government could face a potentially embarrassing revolt on the motion, with reports suggesting up to 25 Tory MPs could be willing to rebel over concerns about claimants facing waits of six weeks to get money under the system.
Fellow Scottish Conservative MP Andrew Bowie defended his colleague, saying Mr Ross had personally raised concerns with Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke.
Mr Bowie, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, said: “I think the people of Moray are quite happy for him to continuing refereeing as well as being their MP and he’s doing a very good job at both.”
He spoke out after shadow Scotland Office minister Paul Sweeney accused Mr Ross of having a “perverse sense of priorities”.
The Labour MP said: “The rollout of Universal Credit has blighted lives across the country, forcing many to rely on food banks and crisis grants to get by.
“Yet Mr Ross doesn’t even have the decency to turn up to Parliament and explain why he supports putting people through such misery.
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“This sorry episode will leave Mr Ross’s constituents in no doubt as to where his priorities lie and it’s not playing the game for them.”
But Mr Bowie added: “Douglas has held over 50 surgeries since becoming a Member of Parliament, I think the people of Moray still back him as their Member of Parliament, as has been proven by he takes up their cases, he has spoken to David Gauke personally.
“Douglas has made concerns known and talked to David Gauke separately at various other places around Westminster. There will be many other Scottish Conservatives in the debate this afternoon.”
Mr Ross has been an MP since June, when he ousted the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson to win the Moray seat.
Prior to that he had served as an MSP at Holyrood, and had come under fire there after he missed a meeting of the Justice Committee in November 2016 to travel to Portugal to be assistant referee at a Champions League clash between Sporting Lisbon and Real Madrid.
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In the Commons register of interests, Mr Ross has declared earnings of more than £2,700 for his work as an assistant referee in Scotland and Europe.
SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson hit out at Mr Ross saying: “Part-time Tory MP Douglas Ross just never learns his lesson - and he is yet again leaving his constituents without a voice in Parliament because he’d rather rub shoulders with famous footballers.
“This isn’t the first time that he’s failed to turn up for important meetings, and his constituents will be wondering why he shows no interest in discussing universal credit - which is driving up rent arrears and leaving families penniless.
“It’s time for two-job Ross to call time on his highly lucrative refereeing career.”