A north MP has come under fire for calling for tougher enforcement against the travelling community if he was to be made prime minister for a day.
When asked what his first priority would be if he became PM, Moray MP Douglas Ross replied: “Tougher enforcement against gypsies and travellers”.
The comment has led to calls for Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson to discipline Mr Ross and has drawn cross-party accusations of intolerance.
Last night, Mr Ross admitted there would be “more pressing matters” for a prime minister but stood by the remark as “an example of a constituency case I had been dealing with”.
He said: “That said I feel it is an issue that needs to be discussed. While there are traditional gypsy travellers who live their lives and integrate well in communities, there are also those who don’t.
“I have tried to assist constituents who object to travellers getting round planning rules that those in the settled community can’t, I’ve been involved when land owners have had to go to court to get travellers ejected from their property and I have seen the mess left in several parts of Moray when they finally are moved on.
“It may not be popular to say this, but it is an issue that needs tackled.
“I understand why people criticise me for expressing this opinion, but I would also hope my opponents can see this is an issue that needs to be debated to tackle ongoing issues between gypsy travellers and the settled communities.”
But SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said: “These comments are disgraceful and shed further light on the true character of Ruth Davidson’s party. But equally disgraceful is the cowardly vow of silence that Ms Davidson herself seems to have taken in recent days.
“Not content with readmitting two councillors with openly racist, sectarian and bigoted views to her party, she is refusing to justify that move or to discipline Mr Ross.”
Scottish Green justice spokesman and north MSP John Finnie added: “Douglas Ross was given an open goal, be PM and sort anything you want.
“He didn’t choose improving health, education or housing, he didn’t seek to eradicate poverty, work for a better planet or peace. Rather he chose to attack an already beleaguered minority.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “These are abhorrent, disturbing and extremely offensive comments.
“Coming just after Ruth Davidson reinstated two racist councillors, it is becoming clearer by the day that the Tories really are the same old nasty party.
“Douglas Ross must immediately apologise for these comments.”
A Scottish Conservative spokesman declined to condemn the comments, adding: “This is an issue which is repeatedly raised in communities right across Scotland, and one all our politicians are keen to address. The Scottish Conservatives want to work with all stakeholders to find a solution that works for everyone.”