Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has made clear he is charge of his party’s campaign in the run-up to May’s Holyrood election.
While Mr Ross accepted Boris Johnson would “play a role” in the campaign ahead of the planned May 6 ballot, he insisted the party he leads is “distinct” from the UK Conservatives.
Polling has indicated that the Prime Minister is not popular with many voters north of the border.
Despite that, Mr Ross insisted the Conservatives were the “only party with the strength right across Scotland to take on the SNP”.
Speaking ahead of the election he was clear: “I lead the party in Scotland, it is the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, it is distinct from the UK party.
“I’m the leader, I’m standing for election to Holyrood with my colleagues and it is our manifesto that is agreed in Scotland by me in Scotland and my team.”
Mr Ross, speaking at an online event staged by the think tank Bright Blue, continued: “The Prime Minister is the leader of the Conservative Party across the country and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he will play a role in this election.
“But he is not standing for election to Holyrood, I am. It is my team, my policies that will be going forward to the people of Scotland and I think that is absolutely the right approach for the Scottish Conservatives.”
He hit out at the SNP, accusing Nicola Sturgeon’s party of having used its time in government to focus on “division, constitutional wrangling, and trying to separate Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom”.
Mr Ross claimed: “They have used their position as the government in Scotland not to improve education, not to focus on the NHS, not to try to rebuild our economy, not to protect people’s jobs but to promote their party ambition which is to separate our country.”
While he is currently an MP, he is hoping to be returned to Holyrood after May’s Scottish election.
And he insisted he was a leader who would “stand up for Scotland”.
Speaking about how he quit as a Scotland Office minister in the wake of the row over Dominic Cumming’s alleged breach of coronavirus lockdown rules, Mr Ross said: “There’s not many political leaders who have resigned from government over a point of principle, so I go into this election as someone who will stand up for Scotland when I think it is in the best interests of the country.
“That sometimes means going against my party, it means standing up to authority and I think that is the right thing to do.”
He added: “I’ve always been someone who goes with my very strongly held beliefs and will see them through. I think that is what people are looking for in politics, someone who doesn’t just nod his head and agree with everything other people say, someone who can drive his own strategy and drive his own team and take them forward and really deliver for Scotland and I think we’ve got an opportunity to do that.”