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Tory MSPs take aim at Douglas Ross in warning party faces ‘death by a thousand cuts’

Exclusive: Politicians and insiders reveal unrest at the Highlands and Islands MSP's leadership.

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross.
Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross.

Tory MSPs and staff warn the party faces “death by a thousand cuts” in a major warning for leader Douglas Ross.

We can reveal how insiders are sounding the alarm in interviews with elected members worried about the future of the party under the Highlands and Islands MSP.

They warn:

  • The party has ‘given up’ being the main opposition at Holyrood
  • Labour’s resurgence is causing frustration at the leader
  • Tories could be ‘destroyed’ at the next Holyrood election

Mr Ross, who is also MP for Moray, has already been forced this week to deny sacking his justice spokesman for supporting the government’s controversial gender reforms.

The party is languishing behind Labour and the SNP in opinion polls.

Some Tories predict they will hold on to constituencies in Scotland at the next general election, while Labour takes SNP seats.

scotland covid update douglas ross
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross. Image: PA

But one MSP said that will just be the start of problems.

The MSP said: “My view is that it will be death by a thousand cuts rather than an immediate leadership challenge.

“I think it will come home to roost in 2026 because what you’ll have is a Labour vote that’s gone up, and that will destroy us on the list votes for Holyrood.

“It’s only going to get worse because the group of people disaffected is only going to increase – and it’s already very high at the moment.

“There are a lot of people who are very unhappy – about the Conservative narrative, about the election strategy.

“It looks like we’ve given up on being the opposition.”

Grim polling for Conservatives

The latest YouGov survey of Scottish voters found the SNP now leads Labour by just four points ahead of the next Westminster election, at 36% against 32%. The Tories sit far behind at 15%.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is meanwhile on course to lose heavily to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at the general election, according to polling across the UK.

Douglas Ross and Rishi Sunak at the Scottish Tory conference. Image: PA.

The polling, based on more than 1,000 adults, also suggests Mr Ross is the most unpopular leader when compared with Mr Yousaf and Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar.

Labour appear to be capitalising while Tories struggle, just at a time when the SNP is dealing with a new leader and a police probe of party finances.

Another current Tory MSP called on Mr Ross to transform his message to voters and prove there’s more to them that supporting the union.

“The bottom line is that there is a lot of frustration in the party,” the MSP said.

“We see what is happening to the SNP but as the second party in the Scottish Parliament, we want to be front and centre in terms of seeing our opinion polls move forward.

Douglas Ross. Image: Supplied

“The Labour Party, who are in third, are now being touted quite regularly – pretty much every week – as being neck and neck with the SNP.

“That’s created some pent up frustrations and some will inevitably be directed at colleagues, including the leader.”

Asked if that means there has been a failure in leadership, the MSP said: “That’s the frustration.

“Having done so much of the heavy lifting in the Scottish Parliament, and we will continue to do that, to see that it’s the Labour Party who seem to be gaining off the back of the SNP’s implosion is very frustrating.”

Fury at sacking

Meanwhile, we have learned West of Scotland MSP Jamie Greene only heard he had been axed as Tory justice spokesman when he was contacted by a journalist the night before an announcement was made to MSPs.

He said last month he was “probably” dropped from the front bench for supporting the Gender Recognition Reform Bill but was never given a reason.

Jamie Greene MSP Scottish Conservative. Image: Supplied

The Scottish Conservatives allowed its group of MSPs a free vote on the bill during its Holyrood passage in December. It was later vetoed by the UK Government.

One senior party figure described the way Mr Greene was treated as “appalling” and said Mr Ross “isn’t making any attempts to keep people on side”.

He said: “The actual reason he sacked Jamie Greene will never be spoken about.

“It was because Jamie was the one person who held out on Douglas – for 24 hours or 48 hours – when he was going for leader.

“Douglas wanted it unanimous, as you would, but Jamie held out before he eventually caved in.”

When it came to the reshuffle, one MSP added: “I think maybe the grudge came from some of his remarks then and Douglas just thought he’s a leadership candidate and I want him out.

“I would suggest that was very short sighted.”

The Scottish Conservatives said: “Douglas is fully focused on holding the failing SNP government to account and concentrating on the public’s real priorities, as he did in Tuesday’s keynote speech outlining his positive vision for the Scottish economy.”