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Douglas Ross: ‘Scotland exists beyond Glasgow and Edinburgh’

Douglas Ross.
Douglas Ross.

Moray MP Douglas Ross has claimed he wants to be a “leader for all of Scotland”, stating the Scottish Government has been “very central belt-centric in what they do”.

The 37-year-old Conservative leadership hopeful also denied his decision to vie for the top spot preceded former leader Jackson Carlaw’s announcement on Thursday that he was quitting his post with immediate effect.

He added that his decision to stand down as Scotland Office minister in protest at Dominic Cummings’ controversial 260-mile drive from London to Durham during lockdown was “hand on heart” not taken to pave the way for him to assume leadership of the Scottish Tories.

On controversial comments he made in an online interview in 2017 that he would impose “tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers” if he was Prime Minister for a day, he said they were “wrong”, adding that as a politician he “won’t get everything right”.

Ahead of his official campaign launch in Aberdeen on Saturday, Mr Ross said: “I could not have foreseen in May when I resigned over one issue that would then lead to me having an availability to put my name forward for the leadership of the Conservatives two months later.

“I took a decision which wasn’t easy for me, a personal and professional decision, and the implications that came with it, hand on heart that was in no way connected to what has subsequently happened two months later.”

In terms of his speedy ascent to front-runner to succeed Mr Carlaw as leader, the Moray MP said he had been asked to stand previously but chose not to.

When a “vacancy arose” on Thursday, he claims he knew he had to “act quickly” and started taking calls from colleagues urging him to stand.

“Jackson made his statement, he spoke on TV and I spoke with him later in the evening and that is the process that happened on Thursday evening,” Mr Ross added.

Jackson Carlaw resigned as leader of the Scottish Conservatives on Thursday.

Mr Ross confirmed he will contest a seat at the next Holyrood election, in May, in the Highlands and Islands constituency if he wins the party leadership, though he will also continue as the MP for Moray.

Before then, Edinburgh Central MSP Ruth Davidson has agreed to lead First Minister’s Questions ahead of voters heading to the polls.

He added: “We have seen the Scottish Government are very central belt-centric in what they do.

“Politicians of all parties have to remember that Scotland exists beyond Glasgow and Edinburgh.

“Important cities though they are, I want to be a leader for the whole of Scotland.

“My priority will be delivering for the people of Moray and the people across Scotland, if I’m fortunate enough to be elected to lead the Scottish Conservatives.”

Politicians of all parties have to remember that Scotland exists beyond Glasgow and Edinburgh.”

Douglas Ross, Moray MP

There have been strong suggestions that the Conservatives were frightened into drastic action following a recent independence poll that showed support at a record 54% and internal polling that revealed too few people knew who former leader Jackson Carlaw was.

On his fears for the union, Mr Ross said he and Ms Davidson, are determined to “take the fight to the SNP” and to build on recent election successes, which has seen them return elected members, particularly in the north-east of Scotland.

On his reasons for picking Ms Davidson to lead FMQ’s, rather than Mr Carlaw’s joint deputy leaders, Liam Kerr and Annie Wells, he said Ms Davidson is a “tried, tested and extremely efficient politician”.

But will the Moray politician, who also works as an assistant referee, have the time to devote to the Scottish Government while representing his constituents in London?

There is “clear precedence”, Mr Ross claims, from when Alex Salmond previously juggled being leader of the SNP, an MSP and the First Minister of Scotland.

He added:  “I will be an MP representing my home area of Moray, I intend to put my name forward for the Highlands and Islands list and I’ll be leading the Scottish Conservatives.

“I think it’s positive that someone who is a staunch defender of the union is able to stand up for Scotland both in Holyrood but continue to focus on Scottish politics from the green benches of Westminster.”

Over the next five years, the 37-year-old believes MSPs should be focusing on developing a “strong economy” that provides jobs and supports businesses, something he thinks has been “sorely lacking” from the Scottish Government.

He also believes voters in Scotland want their elected representatives to focus on “improving their education system, improving the health service and focusing on the economic recovery” that will be required in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2017 the leadership hopeful, came under fire for saying he would impose “tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers” if he was Prime Minister for a day.

When asked if these comments were a mistake, the parliamentarian said he was “wrong” and as a politician “won’t get everything right”.

I won’t get everything right, I will make mistakes but a politician that learns from their mistakes rather than ignoring them is the better of the two.”

Douglas Ross, Moray MP

He added: “I was asked a quick-fire series of questions and, without being able to give any further context, I mentioned an issue with unauthorised Gypsy Traveller encampments which was affecting my constituency on that day.

“It was wrong the way I said it and what I said was wrong and as a politician I’m willing to accept my mistakes.

I won’t get everything right, I will make mistakes but a politician that learns from their mistakes rather than ignoring them is the better of the two.”

In terms of what he can offer Scotland, Mr Ross thinks he will bring a “fresh voice” as someone determined to see a “better future for my son’s generation and future generations”.

He also says he wants to bring the discussion in Scotland back to how services can be improved and “how our two parliaments can work together rather than against each other to improve the lives of the people of Scotland”.

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