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Douglas Ross to quit as Scottish Tory leader after July 4 Westminster election

The Conservative leader made the shock announcement as he revealed his intention to stand down from Holyrood if he wins in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East on July 4.

Douglas Ross is standing for the Tories in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East. Image: Shutterstock.
Douglas Ross is standing for the Tories in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East. Image: Shutterstock.

Douglas Ross is dramatically quitting as the Scottish Tory leader – and will step down from Holyrood if he becomes an MP again on July 4.

The ex Moray MP’s latest surprise move comes days after he U-turned on a promise to bow out of the Commons and stick to his Scottish Parliament role.

Instead, he stepped in to contest the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat after hospitalised candidate David Duguid was blocked by the party.

That controversial decision sparked unrest among Tory MSPs, putting his role as party leader in jeopardy.

Further anger was fuelled by Mr Duguid’s insistence he was still able to run to be an MP despite being in hospital after a lengthy stint in intensive care.

Mr Ross then faced even more pressure on Sunday as he was accused of a cover-up over his expenses.

A source close to the outgoing Conservative leader said he realised his position was untenable over the weekend.

“After last week it became clear that MSPs and people in the party were not happy with Douglas continuing as an MSP, MP, and party leader,” they said.

They said Mr Ross wants to be able to focus on his fight to be re-elected as an MP.

‘Committed’

In a statement today Mr Ross said: “I have served as MP, MSP, and leader for over three years now and believed I could continue to do so if re-elected to Westminster, but on reflection, that is not feasible.

“I am committed to fighting and winning the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency.

“Should I be given the honour to represent the people and communities of this new seat, they should know that being their MP would receive my complete focus and attention.

“I will therefore stand down as leader following the election on July 4th, once a successor is elected.

“Should I win the seat, I will also stand down as an MSP to make way for another Scottish Conservative representative in Holyrood.

“My party has a chance to beat the SNP in key seats up and down Scotland, including in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.

“We must now come together and fully focus on doing exactly that.”

The departing leader denied the decision was due to his own political ambitions at Westminster.

He said: “I don’t think anyone looking at me announcing today that I’m standing down as leader would necessarily come to that conclusion.”

Mr Ross now faces a tough battle to win the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat after picking himself to run.

Local SNP candidate Seamus Logan said: “Douglas Ross must resign as an MSP today. It’s clear he’s been forced out as Scottish Tory leader.”

In a scathing assessment, Alba Party boss Alex Salmond wrote: “The first case of a rat deserting the sinking ship while simultaneously trying to clamber aboard a gravy train.”

Mr Ross became the Scottish Tory leader in August 2020, replacing Jackson Carlaw who had been in the job for just months.

He was elected to Holyrood the following May – but continued as an MP at Westminster.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Image: Shutterstock.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he enjoyed working with Mr Ross and claimed the outgoing leader had a record to be proud of.

When Mr Ross leaves the Scottish Parliament he will automatically be replaced by Ella Robertson McKay, who is next on the regional Highlands and Islands list for the Tories.

A senior Tory source said Tory MSP and former journalist Russell Findlay would be the “grassroots favourite” to succeed Mr Ross in the top job.

Party chairman Craig Hoy was also mentioned as a possible contender, described as a “safe pair of hands”.